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December 13th, 2020
The inveterate little printer began it’s loud and unashamed process. A few seconds of clanking buzz and jerky motors produced a small slip of paper. Lucilius tore it from it’s thread of umbilical left by the incomplete sever from the rest of the paper roll hidden within the guts of the obnoxious little machine. He glanced at the order printed on the slip of paper and got to work. As he was straining the last drops of mixed drink into chilled coupes his eyes caught familiar shape and movement at the door. A regular had walked in, and by the quick look of it, the guy wasn’t in his usual jovial mood.
Lucilius glanced at the clock as his hands went about their automatic work of resetting his tools. It was a little early. Something must be up.
Without taking the break to go greet the friend, Lucilius instantly set about making a drink. He used bourbon with an amaro he had imported in special. He added just the smallest dash of some bitter branca and then set about the long twisted spoon spinning the liquids with two big blocks of ice. He pulled a chilled glass from the freezer, set the strain to the beaker and then pulled a long silent string of stretched liquid as he poured the drink. He shaved skin from an orange and then pinched the oils from it above the drink.
Taking up the glass with another filled with water he walked the length of the near empty afternoon bar and set it down before the regular.
“Godbless you my good man,” the regular said as he quickly lifted the drink and took a needed sip.
“In a bit early today,” Lucilius pointed out, testing for the day’s story.
“Ehh,” the man grunted. “The Miss and I are having a bit of a tiff.”
“Dare I ask?”
“Same as always. It’s pretty much the only thing we fight about.” The man’s face curled between sadden hurt and mild disgust. He dazed at a middle space of memory for a moment and Lucilius grew sensitive to whether the man needed an ear to listen or just time to think.
“Smoking,” the man said looking up at Lucilius, shaking his head. “She smokes, and it drives me crazy. It’s so bad for you, and we constantly go through this routine of gum and brushing teeth because I think it tastes disgusting. And she even agrees that it would be better if she stopped!” The man’s face was tense with raised eyebrows in disbelief at the irony he described. “I tell her to stop, but it just makes things worse…”
Lucilius nodded. “Ya know, I’d make a suggestion, but I’ve found that people don’t ever really take suggestions.”
“Isn’t that the truth!”
Lucilius smiled flatly. “I dated a girl once who smoked. It was nothing short of a miracle when she stopped.”
The man’s face brightened. “What happened? How’d she quit?”
Lucilius shrugged. “Well, I was very much in the same position you are, but I knew it was useless to simply tell her to stop - I mean that never works, ever. And if anything it makes things worse just by making the situation more stressful, which is exactly when someone grabs for a pack.”
“So what did you do?”
Lucilius smiled. “I spent a few months making her a beautiful cigarette case.”
“What?” The man snapped, affronted by the absurdity of the answer.
“It really was beautiful,” Lucilius said, reflecting on the memory. “I used walnut wood, and I routed 6 slots for cigarettes and a long one for an antique cigarette holder, and then another spot for an antique lighter that I got for her. Even got her name engraved on it.”
The man’s interest intensified with his disbelief. “How did that solve the issue?”
“And then,” Lucilius said, getting excited now by the old intricacy of the idea, “I created this huge scavenger hunt across the city. Like she had to dig up a lockbox on the beach and inside was a little music player with one song which lead her to the bar where we had a first date - you know, it was ‘our song’, and then something there lead her somewhere else, and eventually after working through all the clues, she found the gift behind some books on a shelf in the public library.”
Lucilius’ audience was now impressed as much as he was completely at a loss for how the story might end. Lucilius let the premise linger as his smile curled more, looking for the next set of words.
“It had a card with it, and in it I wrote that there was just one rule regarding the gift.”
The man gestured frantically for Lucilius to continue.
“Only cigarettes she rolls herself, nothing store bought.”
“Huh,” the man said. “That worked?”
Lucilius gently shook his head. “It’s really easy to smoke half a dozen cigarettes when they’re already rolled and just sitting there in the pack. It’s a pain in the ass to roll them all individually.”
Lucilius paused for effect. “Within three months she wasn’t smoking anymore and that beautiful walnut case finally began to do what it was made for.”
The man chuckled a bit. “What’s that?”
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