It was the middle of the night during one of the winter months when the horrible thing was made apparent to me. I awoke from some dream about a man with butterfly wings trying to make a collect call on a pay phone, when I noticed the temperature. It was cold. Very cold. Then again, I was inside a nearly ancient apartment house which was apparently built back before the idea of insulation was thought to be a keen one. Every owner since the first, has for whatever reason, chosen to blatantly scoff at the notion of adding the much needed blanket of insulation to this aging body of thinning structure. 

As frigid as it was, Mother Nature was, not too softly, beckoning me out of my slumber, out of my bed and into the lavatory. As I am a fairly good listener and even excellent when figures as prestigious as Mother Nature are concerned, I arose like some blooming winter blossom, only slightly less picturesque, and began stumbling, the best I knew how after twenty some years of practice, to the loo. About three quarters of the way to my decided destination, I became inconvenienced, if not downright wounded, when I stepped on something much harder than I cared to, given a choice. It was a rough, hard, angular something that I had planted my foot upon. After an, "Ow!" and a delightful little dance (that I'm sure would have made my boyhood bestfriend's mother proud as punch to witness, as she was a Ladies Highland Dance teacher and knew a good step when she saw one), I made it to the water closet's entrance where I turned on the light. 

I thought that surely this was some sort of toy that the kids left out prior to turning in for the night, but a moment later when I remembered that I did not have any children, nor did I even have a wife at this point, I was truly puzzled. Then, the soft light from the lovely low wattage incandescents gave sight. It took the old bean a good thirty seconds or so to decipher the shape out of context, but it was, to my horror, a pipe. It was not just any pipe, but one of my favorites, a special edition Peterson's Christmas pipe. This pipe was made in Dublin, Ireland by one of the greatest pipe companies of all time. Is it not enough for a country to bring to the world the wonders of Guinness? No, it is not. They, as a country, must also be so absolutely amazing as to produce a line of pipes that are true quality workers from stem to bowl. And here, before me, is one of their fallen sons, which I was ultimately responsible for its safe keeping, its polishing, but most of all is continued smoking, until I meet my maker, who, if he has good stuff to him, as I've heard he does, will meet me with a Guinness and a Peterson's special 'Heaven edition.' 

This pipe, now on the floor before me, was once a fine smoker with a near perfect draw, a lovely shape and marvelous graining. Before tonight, the only damage done to the beauty were the miniscule teeth marks that I personally bestowed upon my lovely limited edition companion. Now, however, the black stem which was once a smooth curving and elegant line, was now a twisted and gash ridden reminder of what it once was. Not to be outdone, the shank and bowl were in similarly horrific shape causing me to consider where the nearest box of tissues might lay in wait, for surely any moment now, I would find my eyes showing what my heart felt-a deep, deep sadness. 

The question now was, who? Had some heartless thief who couldn't possibly have an ounce of self worth, broken into my humble and frigid abode and taken to gnawing on one of my prized possessions when he saw nothing around him that he personally thought would match the interior of his own lair? This could have been the case, and I might have ceased considering any other scenario, being somewhat half out of my gourd since the tragic event, but then, stage left, enters the other resident. Maggie. 

Maggie was s stocky, to put it very mildly, muscle-bound snow white American Bulldog. She was, without a doubt, the toughest female I had ever known. Her solid and wide head was taking turns looking at the remnants of the Peterson, and then back to me, her flatmate and food provider. At this moment, her guilt could not have been more crystal clear if she had produced a written confession and adorned it with paw print. It was obvious to me now, there had been no burglar, no thief in the night, only my dear monstrous, muscular Maggie. 

The size of the impression one would have to dig in order to give a pup like this a final resting place would take three or four athletic men about six good solid hours, with good shovels no less. And there I stood, non-athletic, weary, sad and in possession of not one shovel, but only a rusty and very old hoe. Murder, it seemed to me that moment, was out of the question. How then, was I to go on? I imagined the answer was cleverly hidden at the bottom of a Guinness at the local pub. It was but up to me to find the correct one. With remaining pipes secured, I left Maggie and went curbward. I set my feet to the task of getting me to my local tap and soon, although never soon enough, there I sat, belly to bar. 
The speed at which Ned, the bartender, caused a pint of the dark and lovely to appear was nothing short of miraculous. It would now be a short wait to allow the refresher to set up. Once the beverage of the most noble was ready for me, I enjoyed from first to last drop. I believe it was pint number three when the answer hit. The effects of a few Guinness have always had a more than magical effect on me, and this moment was no exception. A stark beam of gnosis directly from Sophia herself hit me square on. The clarity Said-knock lent, was amazing. I knew immediately what had to be done. 

As luck would have it, I noticed a fine looking shovel on the way in which was perched just outside my favorite tankhouse, apparently awaiting more landscaping work to be done in the patio area. After a few brief words of explanation to Ned, he allowed me to borrow it for a spell, and so I was off to my dwelling place once more in order to set all that was wrong, right again. 

Once home, I headed straight for the courtyard. This was a shared outdoor spot which is taken care of and enjoyed by myself, as well as a few other tenants. As my directive was from on high, I could not imagine any objections to my plans from anyone at all. I found a good spot just under some hanging honeysuckle and began to dig. The muscles needed for digging a decent hole are apparently the same ones which I had previously kept in a hibernated state, knowing they would most likely never be used. Before this night, they were not unlike that massive canister of pepper that has been sitting at the back of my cupboard for years, awaiting usefulness. 

The exact amount of time which passed, I could not be sure of, but finally, the hole showed itself completely. A fitting bed and final resting place, I thought, for what once was a dear friend. I returned indoors, located Maggie, took her by the collar, knelt down and kissed her massive head. I explained to her that I forgave her and completely understood the urge of wanting to learn the fine art of pipe smoking alone. Together we wrapped our dear departed friend in the finest handkerchief that man and dog could find. We cried and said our farewells and tucked our pipe friend in for his endless night of sleep. 

As a pet owner, this experience was a great lesson. Listen to the needs and wants of your animal closely, especially when the pleasures of pipe smoking are concerned. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

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AuthorOlie Sylvester