The Magic Pipe

“The Magic Pipe” is from a book I wrote entitled Stories to
Smoke a Pipe by
. I revised the original story, making many
changes, and present it here. This newly revised version of “The Magic
Pipe” is dedicated to the memory of Tom Dunn.

I hope you enjoy it!

Melvin S. Schwartz

There are good pipes, and there are bad pipes.

There are expensive pipes, and there are inexpensive pipes.

And then there is . . . the magic pipe.

John Ferguson doesn’t know it yet, but there is a pipe waiting for him;
this is not the kind of pipe found at your local tobacconist, and it is not
for sale. It’s the kind of pipe made by someone, somewhere, who enjoys
making some very unusual pipes. And soon, John Ferguson, a
thirty-five-year-old bus driver, will smoke one of those very unusual
pipes. And then . . . Mr. Ferguson will experience the special qualities
of an incredible pipe.

It was a quiet afternoon at the Fergusons’ apartment. John with his wife
Karen and their eight-year-old son Brian were playing with the train set in
Brian’s bedroom.

The phone rang and Karen hurried to answer it, almost tripping on one of
Brian’s toy soldiers as she ran into the living room.

Karen suddenly called out: “Honey, it’s for you. It’s your mother.”

John came rushing out of the kid’s bedroom and took the phone.

“Hello, Mom. How’s Dad feeling?”

“He’s not well, John, nothing more they can do. Dr. Kessler said
he doesn’t have more than two months to live. The cancer has spread too far
. . . it is terminal.”

He covered the mouthpiece with his hand. “Damn that freaking cancer,” he
whispered through clenched teeth.

“John, are you there? Hello?”

“Sorry, Mom, that hit me like a ton of bricks. When did the doctor tell
you this?”

“Last week when—”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m sorry, John, but your father made me promise not to tell you. The
reason I can tell you now is because I told him that would be the only way
I’d call you.”

“Mom, have you considered getting a second opinion?”

“I did, but Dr. Kessler said they went in during the surgery and saw it
had spread too far to do anything but chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the
only hope aside from some miraculous remission. Even so, your father
doesn’t want chemotherapy. You know how your father is—”

“Stubborn,” he finished. “But can’t say I blame him knowing what that
chemo does to people. Nevertheless, I still wish he would do
it&mdsah;”

“He won’t do it and has made that very clear. I hate to say this, but I
guess he’d rather die.”

“Christ, I was hoping that somehow . . . somehow Dad would get
better.”

“I know, John. It would take a miracle, and believe me, I’ve been
praying every day for just such a miracle. He is getting so weak, and
sleeping a lot because of the medication. But your father wants very much
to see you. He says it’s about something very important, and he won’t tell
me what it is. He really wants to see you, John. When can you
come?”

“I can leave right now,” he said urgently.

“Oh, that would be wonderful. Bring Karen and Brian, too.”

“Sure, Mom, will do. I can’t imagine what Dad is talking about
because I just saw him last week.”

“I know, but that was the day before he found out what Dr. Kessler
said. When we went to see Dr. Kessler, I talked to the doctor in his
office, asking him about your father’s condition, and specifically asked
how much time he had left. After Dr. Kessler told me that your father had
about two months to live, your father walked into the room with tears in
his eyes. I’m sure he knows, John. Ever since that day, he’s been very
depressed, really down in the dumps like I’ve never seen him before. It was
horrible news, just horrible.” She paused, and then continued: “See you
soon, and drive carefully.”

“Okay, Mom. I’m practically on my way.”

John hung up the phone, and then turned to Karen. “It’s bad news, real
bad. The doctor said my father has about two months to live.”

Karen gasped and put a hand to her mouth. “Oh my God, that’s
terrible,” she said with her fingers spread across her lips.

“Damn!” John said with a sharp turn of his head to the side. “Two months
. . . two months, Karen, that’s about all the time he has left. I thought
the surgery . . .” He trailed off.

She put her arms around him, pressing her face against his chest, and
said quietly, “Are you going over there now?”

“Yes. Mom says he wants to see me . . . about something very
important. I told her I’d be right over. She also wants you and Brian to
come along.”

Karen stepped back. “Should I go like this?” She paused
briefly, and then pointed to her white blouse and blue jeans. “Or
should I put on a dress?”

“You’re fine, honey,” John said, giving her a wink. “I’ll bring the
car around to the front and wait for you and Brian.” He grabbed the
car keys and left the apartment.

Karen went to fetch their eight-year-old son. When she entered Brian’s
bedroom, he was playing with the train set that John bought him for
Christmas.

She smiled and said, “Brian, we have to go with daddy to grandpa’s
house.”

He turned the power off and the caboose jumped the tracks. Slowly, he
put it back in place, and then looked up at her. “Mom, I don’t want to
go,” he said, frowning.

“Brian, daddy is waiting downstairs.”

“Do I have to go? Every time we go there, grandma cries, then you
cry, and I just sit around and never have any fun.”

“I know, sweetheart, but we have to go.” She walked over to the closet
and took out a dark blue coat. “Let’s go, Brian, daddy is waiting.”

“All right,” he said, sounding annoyed, and then looked at the train set
as if he would never see it again. “Just when I was having fun,” he said
quietly to himself.

Karen took Brian’s hand and led him towards the elevator; the building
superintendent came walking towards her. He looked at her with those dark
eyes, penetrating eyes that were examining every part of her. She seemed to
feel his eyes squirming up and down her front, making her wish she had worn
a suit of armor.

“Hello, Mrs. Ferguson,” he said, smiling.

“Hi,” she said absently, looking over his head and into space, trying to
avoid the stare of those dark eyes.

Karen was a beautiful woman, all of twenty-nine with a terrific figure,
and a lovely face with blue eyes that reminded me of the eyes I’ve seen in
pictures of a Siamese cat. Her light brown hair, silky and soft, flowed
down to her shoulders. Karen had beauty all right, not so sharp
upstairs—took her two tries before getting that high school
equivalency diploma—but a real looker who could turn more heads than
a tennis ball.

The superintendent watched her close the elevator door. He muttered
something and went about his business.

As Karen was about to enter the car, she turned and looked up to the
large window of the third floor and seemed to think she saw that
superintendent. What a creepy guy, she thought; then pushed Brian
into the Ford station wagon and they took off for the home of John’s
parents.

John’s mother greeted them with hugs and kisses. When she led them into
the living room, John’s father suddenly cried out: “Is John
here?”

“I’ll be right there, Dad,” John shouted, and then turned to
his mother. “I’ll go into the bedroom and talk to him.”

“Please,” his mother began, “I’ve never seen him this way
before. He is so determined about telling you something, and he won’t even
tell me what it is.”

“Go ahead, John,” Karen said, running both hands through her light brown
hair, sweeping it over her ears. “Brian and I will wait here with your
mother.”

John walked briskly into his father’s bedroom. His father, looking very
pale, was lying in the bed. Near the bed was a table made from a twenty-two
inch square chessboard connected to the bottom section of a swivel chair.
Sitting on the chessboard were different size bottles of medication, a
pitcher of water, an empty glass, a pipe tamper, and a small, oblong-shaped
box.

John quickly embraced his father, planting a soft kiss on his cheek.

“Dad, how are you feeling?” he asked, forcing a smile, knowing
the prognosis.

“John, it’s gotten worse, and there’s no point in trying to kid you. The
way I’m feeling the pain, I have to keep taking those pain killers.” He
turned to look at the bottles of medication sitting on the chessboard. “I
don’t like to tell you this . . . but I don’t know how much longer I’ve
got. You know me; you know I’m not one to play games, so I’m telling it to
you straight.”

He sounded so brave, so strong, but looked weak, very weak.

John remembered what his father once told him: Men don’t cry, son.
Men don’t cry, women cry.
He said it when John was crying because his
grandmother had passed away. John never cried again; he always remembered.

John looked at him sadly and said, “I wish there were something I
could do.”

“I know, John, but there’s nothing anyone can do. I realize my life
is coming to an end, and that’s why I asked your mother to send for
you.”

“Look, Dad, you don’t know. Maybe things will change. Maybe
tomorrow they will find a cure. Maybe you will suddenly go into remission.
Maybe—”

“John, please, no more maybes. Let’s not kid ourselves. I sent for
you because I have something that I want you to have. It’s in that box on
the table,” he said, turning to look at the chessboard.

John picked up the small, oblong-shaped box.

His father pointed a finger and said, “Open it, John.”

He opened the box and took out a shiny black-stained pipe. The pipe was
a straight billiard shape with carved finish, smooth rim, and a black
vulcanite stem.

John held the pipe in his hand and said, “But, Dad, you know I
don’t smoke.”

“John, this is not just an ordinary pipe. It is special.
When you smoke it, think of something that you want—and the next
day you will have it.
You can do that three times, and then it is
useless. Oh, you can still smoke the pipe, but it won’t grant anymore
wishes. Now, this is important if you want your wishes to come true: You
must smoke the pipe all the way down, and make sure that all the tobacco is
smoked. And you have to let the pipe rest one day before you smoke it
again. In other words, if you smoke it tonight, don’t smoke it
tomorrow.
Now, there are some things the pipe won’t do: It will not
produce money, and you can’t use it to cause harm to anything.”

John looked at the pipe he was holding in his hand; he felt like
laughing, but then looked at his father and saw the seriousness in his
eyes.

“Dad, I . . . I really find this hard to believe.”

“I know,” his father said quietly. “I felt the same way years ago when I
got the pipe. Believe me, John, it’s true. The pipe has magic.”

John thought about having a new car, his own house, and other things he
could not afford. Then he began turning the pipe in his hand, looking at it
carefully, wondering if there was some hidden magic inside the bowl.

He looked at his father and said, “But I don’t even know how to
smoke a pipe.”

His father managed a weak smile and said, “It isn’t that difficult.
Buy some tobacco and put it in the bowl, but don’t pack it too tightly. Put
a match to the tobacco and keep puffing until the pipe is lit. Let it go
out the first time, and then tamp down the tobacco with a tamper—take
the tamper on the table—and relight the pipe and keep it lit. After
you finish the pipe and it has cooled, empty the ashes and use the pick
tool of the tamper to loosen and remove the dottle, which is unburned and
partially burned tobacco left in the bowl. If the pipe goes out, just
relight the pipe and continue puffing until it’s finished. Puff slowly so
you don’t get an irritated tongue—think of sipping wine. Have you got
it?”

“Yes, I guess so. But . . . Dad, if the pipe can do such remarkable
things, then why haven’t you used it to get rid of the cancer?”

“I can’t. I’ve already used my three wishes, and I don’t have anymore. I
sure wish I did . . . just one more. If only . . . if only I—” He
stopped suddenly, as one single tear ran down the side of his cheek. He
remembered: Men don’t cry, women cry.

He raised a hand to wipe away the tear. “It’s a side-effect of one of
those damn pills, makes the eyes water every now and then,” he said, and
smiled a little.

John glanced at the shiny black pipe. “How in heaven’s name did you
ever get this pipe?”

“That doesn’t matter,” his father said with a flick of the
hand. “It’s a long story, and I don’t feel up to it. The important
thing is now you have the pipe.”

John looked at the pipe for a moment and then asked, “Why don’t I
smoke it and wish that the cancer disappears?”

“It won’t work,” his father said sharply. “You can’t make a wish for
someone else. I mean, you can’t wish for something that is not for you.
You can wish for something that someone else wants, but it has to
materialize for you.”

John looked at him, puzzled. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“Suppose your wife wants a piece of jewelry. You can wish for the
jewelry because it will go to you, and then you can give it to your
wife.”

“I see,” John said, fingering his chin. “I believe I’ve
got it now.”

“Good. Now please take the pipe and bring some happiness to you
and your family.”

“Dad, I appreciate all this, although I wish it were under
different circumstances. I understand what you said about this pipe and
hope it’s all true, but to be perfectly honest, I still find it hard to
believe. Of course, I have nothing to lose by giving it a shot. It
certainly can’t hurt to find—”

“John, I don’t mean to cut you off . . . but . . . the
medication . . . I’m getting a little drowsy.”

“Okay, Dad, I understand. I will smoke the pipe and see what
happens. If it really can do what you say, then I know Karen
and—”

His father had fallen asleep. John leaned over and kissed him on the
cheek.

John still had the pipe in his hand as he went to the door.

Magic, he thought, a pipe that has magic. It sure would be
something if this pipe did have magic.

He placed the pipe inside his shirt pocket and left the room.

Later that evening, the TV was on without sound in the living room, an
old black and white movie on the screen. John was sitting in a La-Z-Boy
recliner, examining the pipe. He raised the pipe to his lips and took a few
practice puffs, and then returned it to his lap. His mind was working
overtime, thinking, thinking of the possibilities . . .

Karen walked into the room. John didn’t notice her as she picked up the
remote control and turned off the TV.

She stood there staring at him.

When did he get that pipe? she wondered. I suppose it
could be his father’s pipe. Uh-huh, he was over there today. I’ll bet that
is his father’s pipe—the one that always made me want to puke
whenever he smoked the darn thing. Oh, this is just great. Well, looks like
I’ll have to put my foot down, and I mean put it down hard!

She pointed a finger and said, “John, is that your father’s
pipe

“Yes. He gave it to me. What he told me about this pipe is
incredible.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, placing both hands on her
hips.

“Karen, you wouldn’t believe it.”

“Come on, John, tell me,” she said, raising her eyebrows.

“My father said when I smoke this pipe I should think of something
I want. And now get this,” he paused to clear his throat, and then
continued, “the next day I will have whatever it was that I
wanted!”

“Uh-huh,” she said, rolling her eyes upwards.

“Karen, I know it sounds strange, but that’s what my father said.”

“Well, let’s go for a million and buy a house and—”

“Hold it, not so fast. Look, you can’t get money, and so that’s
out! My father also said you can’t cause harm to anything, and finally, I
only have three wishes.”

“John, do you believe this? I mean, your father is very ill. You
know, all that medication can make people kind of woozy about
things.”

“True . . . he is taking some strong medication. But, Karen, my
father was mentally alert when he told me about this pipe.”

She leaned forward and reached out with a hand. “Let me see the
pipe.”

Karen looked inside the bowl, and then ran a finger around the interior;
it was clean. She moved her fingers over the peaks and valleys that were
carved into the pipe. Then she turned the pipe over and noticed something
unusual: a silver star was on the underside of the bowl.

“I wonder why this was put here?” she asked.

“It was probably put there as some sort of decoration . . . I
guess.”

“John, do you think what your father said could be true?”

“I . . . I really don’t know,” he said honestly.

“You’ve got to try it. It’s the only way we’ll ever know.”

“Yes, but I’ve never smoked one of these things before.”

“Didn’t you ask your father how to smoke it?”

“I did; he made it sound so simple.”

She smiled and said, “Maybe it is.”

“All right,” he said, getting off the recliner. “I’ll go down to
the drugstore and buy some tobacco.”

Karen made dinner while John went to the Sav-On Pharmacy on Hylan
Boulevard. He looked at different brands of pipe tobacco, such as Sail,
Amphora, Mixture 79, and Captain Black. He was attracted to the Sail
package and purchased it.

After dinner, the Fergusons were in the living room: John and Karen were
sitting on the sofa, and Brian sat on the beige-colored carpet, playing
with his toy soldiers.

“Did you buy the tobacco?” Karen asked.

“Yes,” John said cheerfully, and then went to his desk in the
foyer to get the package of Sail.

He returned to the living room with a big smile on his face, waving the
package of Sail in the air.

Karen’s eyes widened. “Great,” she said anxiously. “Now
what are you waiting for?”

He sat down in a chair opposite the sofa. “I guess I’m a little
nervous about this,” he said, scratching the back of his neck.

“Stop it,” Karen said sharply. “Don’t be silly. You’re
not going to get lung cancer from smoking that thing three times. What are
you worried about?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that I’m concerned about playing
with something so powerful.”

“Look, your father would have told you if there was any danger. Did
he?”

“No, he didn’t mention anything about danger.”

“See? There is nothing to worry about. If that pipe can do what
your father said . . . well, let’s give it a try. Okay, honey?”

John leaned forward and held the pipe out in front of him, pointing it
at Karen. “Why don’t you smoke it?”

“John, don’t be ridiculous. Stop acting like a sissy. Just put some
tobacco in that thing and smoke it so we can find out if it really
works.”

John pointed the pipe at Brian, who was still sitting on the floor,
playing with his toy soldiers. “Brian, do you want to smoke
it?”

“Dad, I can’t smoke that thing.”

John looked at Karen and said, “Well, I guess I’ll have to smoke it
myself.”

“It’s about time,” she said, sounding relieved. “Now,
what are you going to wish for?”

“Well . . . I’ve always wanted a Mercedes-Benz.”

“What about a house?” she asked, her voice rising.
“Aren’t you tired of paying rent? We need a house with four bedrooms,
three bathrooms, a garage, a big backyard, a swimming—”

“Karen, wait a minute. I will give you all that. But I want to
drive up to that new house in style. I want to move in with a
Mercedes-Benz, not that Ford station wagon.”

“Daddy,” Brian suddenly began, “I want a
computer.”

“A computer? You’re only eight years old. What are you going to do
with a computer?”

“I can use it to get smart. You want me to be smart, don’t
you?”

“Yes, but—”

“Mark Lefkowitz is only eight years old and he has a computer.”

“All right, Brian. After I get my car, and then the house, I will
get you a computer.”

“Do you promise that after the car you’ll get the house?”
Karen asked anxiously.

“Yes, I promise. Now I have to concentrate while smoking this
thing.”

He filled the bowl with tobacco and used paper matches to light the
pipe, but he couldn’t keep it lit. He kept at it until finally getting the
knack of keeping the pipe lit. Since he forgot the pipe tamper in his
father’s house, he used the eraser end of a pencil to tamp down the
tobacco.

Brian looked wide-eyed at his father. “Daddy, you always said smoking
isn’t good for your health. How come you’re smoking?”

“Brian, do you want a computer?” John asked.

“Yes.”

“Then shut up!”

Karen walked over and put a finger to Brian’s lips. “Shhh. This is
different, sweetheart. Daddy is smoking a special pipe that isn’t bad for
your health.” She paused, and then said, smiling, “Brian, the pipe may get
you a computer.”

“Karen, I have to concentrate,” John said, sounding
annoyed

“Brian, let’s go into your room and play a game of checkers,”
Karen said softly.

“No, I want to watch Daddy smoke the pipe.”

“Brian, do you want a computer?” she asked, moving a hand
over his sandy-colored hair.

“Yes, I sure do want a computer,” he said, looking up at
her.

“Then come with me to your room and let your father concentrate on
smoking the pipe. Okay, sweetheart?” She ran a hand through his hair,
twisting it into small curls.

“Well . . . okay,” he said, taking her hand away.

“Smoke up a storm, honey,” she said, and then took Brian by
the hand to his bedroom.

John took out a copy of Time Magazine and turned to the page
where Mercedes-Benz had an advertisement. He puffed on the pipe and stared
at that picture of a white Mercedes-Benz. It was a real snazzy-looking
car—the kind of luxury model most of us dream about but never get a
chance to own because we just can’t afford to buy it, unless we win the
lottery. Or if we find . . .

Karen re-entered the living room. John had moved to the La-Z-Boy
recliner and had his feet stretched out on the footrest. He was still
smoking the pipe and looking at that Mercedes-Benz.

She stood there and watched him intensely.

How could a pipe have such power to make wishes come true? she
wondered. Nonsense. It has to be nonsense. A pipe doesn’t do magic. If
that pipe could do magic, then how come his father didn’t use it to get rid
of the cancer?

How could she know? John never told her that his father used up the
three wishes.

He puffed slowly on the pipe and stared at the Mercedes-Benz. He wanted
it bad. You could see it in his eyes. He stared at that photo of the
Mercedes as if it was the last car on earth. I am wishing for this
white Mercedes-Benz,
he repeated over and over in his mind.

Karen leaned back against the wall and put a finger to her lips.

Suppose that pipe did have some magical power, she wondered.
Anything is possible. I have been waiting so long for us to have our own
home. Maybe, just maybe, there really is some magic in that pipe. Come on,
John, get with it and smoke that thing. Puff a little faster, honey, the
pipe won’t know how fast you puff. Come on—oh, I’m getting so darn
excited about this. For God’s sake, how long does it take to smoke a pipe?
John, let’s get it over with so we can find out if it works. Uh-oh, that
smell is getting—the hell with the odor as long as that pipe can
bring us a house. It’s looking good . . . not much smoke coming out. I
think. . . . Hallelujah!

John placed the pipe into an ashtray.

She sighed, and then said, “Well?”

“Well, what?” he asked, and leaned back in the recliner.

“Did you feel anything?”

“Karen, what could I feel?”

“I don’t know. I thought maybe you might feel something
peculiar.”

“No, I only tasted the tobacco.”

“How was it?” she asked, rubbing her nose.

“It tasted sweet, not bad. My father always loved to smoke a pipe, but I
just never took it up. And I still don’t intend to‚ just three smokes
and I’m through.”

Her eyes widened. “Then you believe what your father
said?”

“Well . . . I’m not sure, but I certainly hope it’s true. I do know
my father is not the kind of person to make up such a story.”

“We’ll see tomorrow,” she said, and smiled.

He turned the pipe over and gave it a few hard taps to empty the ashes,
and then used the point of a pencil to loosen the dottle.

He turned to her and said, “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to
sleep tonight. I never felt less like sleeping in my whole life
!”

“Honey, you have to go to work tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I know. All I’ll probably do is lie down in bed, watch the alarm
clock and wonder if the car will show up. The car, Karen, how would the car
show up? Do you suppose I’ll have to pay sales tax? Christ, sales tax on a
Mercedes-Benz would set me back some big bucks. Well, that’s if the pipe
really had that kind of magic. But how am I going to pay the sales
tax? Karen, where are we going to get the money for—”

“John, we could talk about this all night and still not know what is
going to happen. I think the best thing we can do is wait and see what
happens tomorrow.”

She motioned with a finger, moving it back and forth. “Come, let’s
go to bed. I’ll give you a massage and before you know it, you’ll be fast
asleep.”

They held hands as they left the room, and John took a quick glance back
at the shiny black pipe. Magic, he thought, I sure hope that pipe
has magic.

When the alarm clock rang at six the next morning, John shut it off and
got out of bed, shaved, dressed, ate a bowl of cereal, and then went to
pick up his keys on the desk. Next to his key case was another set of keys
that he had never seen before. He took the keys and hurriedly went to the
elevator. He walked out the building and saw it. A shiny white
Mercedes-Benz was parked right smack in front of the house.

“Could it be?” he quietly asked himself. The license plates
bore the letters: JF KF

He moved quickly to the driver’s side of the car, looked
around to see if anyone was watching, and then put the key into the lock.
It turned. He opened the door and saw a small card on the front seat: it
was the registration card. He picked it up and his eyes opened wide as he
began to read the details:

My name and address. It’s mine! The car is really mine!

He ran back inside the building, up the three flights and into his
apartment. He rushed into the bedroom and screamed, “I got the car!
I got the car!”

Karen woke up and began rubbing her eyes. “What did you say?”
she asked, still half asleep.

He grabbed her shoulders and shouted: “It’s true! The car is
outside and it’s really mine!” He dangled the keys in front of her
eyes. “Karen, these are the keys. I even have the registration card.
Can you believe it? A brand new Mercedes-Benz is sitting outside and just
waiting for me to get behind the wheel. I got it, Karen. I got
it!”

He started to dance around the room, waving the registration card
in the air, repeating over and over, “I got a Mercedes-Benz! I got a
Mercedes-Benz!”

Karen’s face expressed a happiness she hadn’t known in years.
“Unbelievable! The pipe really has magic! John, now we can have a
house !”

He didn’t seem to hear her. He just kept dancing around until he finally
stopped to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“It’s incredible!” he shouted. “I really didn’t think it
was going to work. All night I was tossing and turning, thinking, hoping
it would come true. Karen, this registration card even has my signature on
it.”

“That’s amazing, honey. It really is. Now we can have our own
house.”

“Yes, that will be my next wish. First, we have to look around for a
nice spot to accommodate the house. I’ll have to wish for the house and
think of the place where it will go. Hmmm . . . we’ll have to pick out the
town.”

“When do you want to go looking? I’m ready whenever you are,”
she said, smiling.

“Karen, I am going to call in sick today. Let them get someone else to
drive the bus. Jeez, I’m just too damn excited. I mean, how many people get
a brand new Mercedes-Benz—a beautiful car like that parked in front
of our building—with no down payment, no taxes, and absolutely
free !”

Karen smiled. “Honey, that is one extraordinary pipe!”

“Karen, if I knew a pipe could do that, I would have taken up pipe
smoking years ago,” John said, giving her a wink. “Let’s keep Brian home
from school today, and after breakfast we’ll go hunting for that special
spot for our new home.”

“Oh, John, this is absolutely wonderful!” she shouted
joyfully. Then she put her arms around him in a warm embrace, tears of
happiness rolling down her cheeks.

They drove around in John’s new car until they agreed on a piece of land
outside the city in a small town named Carlesdale.

Later that evening, John and Karen looked through the pages of Home
Plans
trying to decide on a house. They studied the pictures of
different styled houses and the accompanying floor plans that described the
layout. They then decided on a Tudor-styled house with four bedrooms,
two-and-a-half bathrooms, family room, and a two-car garage.

After Karen cut out the page showing the house, she handed it to John
and said, “Okay, honey, do your thing. Make it come true.”

“Karen, I forgot to tell you that I have to let the pipe rest for a
day before I can smoke it again.”

“Why? The pipe will never know the difference.”

“Look, my father told me I have to let it rest for one day, and I’m
not going against what he said. I certainly don’t want to screw this
up.”

“Okay. I’m sorry if I sound overanxious, but I’ve been waiting all
these years for us to have our own house.”

Brian walked into the room.

“Did you really get that car, Dad?”

John took the keys out of his pocket and shook them in the air. “That’s
right, Brian. Your father is now the proud owner of a new
Mercedes-Benz!”

“Wow! What are we going to get next?”

“A beautiful house for us in Carlesdale,” Karen said proudly.

“Daddy, I want a computer,” Brian whined.

“First your daddy has to get us a house,” Karen said
sharply.

“I want a computer,” Brian whined again.

“Brian, will you shut up!” Karen shouted.

John got up and pointed a finger at her. “Karen, don’t talk that
way to the kid. He’s got a right to get something, too. My father said it
was for the whole family. And that includes Brian.”

“I know, honey. I’m just getting too hyper about all
this.”

She went over to Brian and gently ran her fingers through his hair.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” she said softly.

“That’s okay, but I still want a computer. Will you get it for me,
Dad?”

“Yes, Brian.”

“When do I get the computer?”

“Brian, I promise you that after we get the house, you will get a
computer. Okay?”

“I guess so, Dad.”

The next morning, John awoke at six to go to work. When he was about to
put a sock on his right foot, he noticed something was missing.

“Holy SHIT! What happened to my toe?”

Karen sat up. “What? . . . What did you say?”

“The middle toe on my right foot is gone! Can you believe
it?”

He rubbed a finger where the toe should have been.

She leaned closer and said, “Let me see.”

He took his hand away and showed her the foot.

“That’s incredible,” she said, looking at the empty space
between his toes. “How could it have happened?”

“I don’t know, but that toe was there yesterday.”

“Do you have any pain?”

“Karen, what the hell are you talking about? Can’t you see it’s
gone without even a bruise? A toe doesn’t just fall off!”

“Do you have any pain?” she persisted.

“No, I don’t have any pain.”

“I think you’d better see a doctor.”

“What the hell can a doctor do? Can he find my toe and put it back
on? C’mon, Karen, this is insane. How could my toe just disappear? If I
tell that to a doctor, he’ll put me in the nuthouse.”

“I still think you should see a doctor.”

“Why?”

“Maybe it’s a bacterial infection?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I once read about some kind of bacterial infection that eats away the
flesh and—”

“Karen, there was nothing eating my toe. It’s just gone! You know what I
mean—GONE—like it was never there!”

“I don’t know, John, but you should see—”

“A doctor,” he finished. “You want me to go to a doctor and tell him my
toe disappeared. Karen, YOU ARE FREAKING CRAZY!”

“I’m just trying to help,” she said, weeping, and used the back of her
hand to wipe away the tears.

“All right, Karen. I’ll go to a doctor. I’m going to make you happy
and go to a goddamn doctor!”

When John returned from the doctor’s office, Karen was sitting in the
living room.

“What did the doctor say?” she asked.

“He thought I was nuts! I told him the toe was there yesterday, and
all he did was shake his head and ask if I’d been drinking.”

“He couldn’t explain it?”

“No! How could he explain something like this?”

“I thought—”

“I don’t want to hear what you thought. Go to a doctor—I
never should have listened to you. All I did was make a jackass out of
myself.”

“But there has to be an explanation—”

“There is.”

“What?”

“The pipe! It has to be the pipe. I get a car, and then I lose a
toe. It’s the only explanation. I don’t understand why . . . but the pipe
has to be the reason.”

“You’d better call your father and ask him.”

“Do you think my father would give me the pipe so I could lose a
toe?”

“Of course not,” she said, turning her head to the side.

“Then what do you want me to do? Call him up and say, I lost my
toe, Dad. It has to be your stupid pipe because I can’t think of a better
explanation, so would you please tell me how to get my toe back? Look,
Karen, I’ve already made a jackass out of myself once today, and I don’t
want to do it again!”

“But if you think it’s the pipe, then you have to ask him about
it.”

“Karen, I’m really not certain that it is the pipe. I just don’t
know. But I do know there should be a toe where there isn’t one.”

“Call him, John.”

“You call him.”

“Do you want me to call and ask him about your toe?”

“Never mind, I’ll call him myself,” he said, motioning with a
wave of the hand.

All afternoon, John kept trying to reach his father, but no one answered
the phone.

Later that evening, Karen walked into the kitchen and noticed John was
holding a small bottle of pills in his hand.

She looked at him, surprised, “What are you doing?”

“Karen, don’t bug me.”

“John, what kind of pill are you taking?”

“It’s what the doctor gave me, a tranquilizer.”

“You don’t need that,” she said, reaching out to grab hold of
the small plastic bottle.

He pulled her hand away. “I certainly do need it. I’m going out of my
mind wondering if I’ll wake up tomorrow and find something else missing
from my body.”

Suddenly the phone rang.

John quickly picked it up. “Hello?”

His mother answered: “John, I have some—”

“Mom, where have you been all day?”

“How did you know I was out?”

“I’ve been trying to reach you on the phone all afternoon. Is
Dad—”

“John, your father is in the hospital.”

“What happened?” he asked, feeling a sudden thumping in his chest.

“He took too many pain killers,” she said in a trembling voice. “It
could have been accidental, or he might have done it on . . .” She
paused; the thought was too unbearable to say.

“Mom, how is he?”

“He’s unconscious . . . in a coma—” She broke off crying
into the phone.

“Mom . . . please . . . is there anything I can do?”

“No, I don’t think so,” she said, her voice wavering.
“The hospital will call me if there’s any change.”

“What hospital is he in?”

“St. Mary’s,” she said, regaining her composure.

“Mom, please call me if he comes out of the coma. I have to talk
with him, and it’s very important.”

“I’ll be going back to the hospital tomorrow morning. If you want
to come—”

“What time are you leaving?”

“I’ll have to call for a taxi and should be leaving here at about
nine.”

“I can be over at eight and take you there.”

“Thank you, John. I . . . I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

“Okay, Mom. Don’t worry, Dad will come out of it.”

“I hope so, John. I hope so,” she said, and hung up.

John was visibly upset as he walked away from the phone.

“What’s the matter?” Karen asked.

“My father overdosed on pain killers and he’s in a coma. That’s
just great. Damn! Now I can’t ask him about the pipe.”

“Maybe it isn’t the pipe.”

“What else could it be? A toe doesn’t just fall off.”

“John, smoke the pipe and wish for your toe back.”

“Karen, that’s not a bad idea. It isn’t like I’m going for a car or
something luxurious. Maybe that was the problem. Yes, I’ll smoke the
pipe and wish for my toe. In fact, I’ll do it right now.”

He lit the pipe and smoked it all the way down—wishing for his
toe.

The next morning, John heard the alarm clock go off at six. He opened
his eyes and began feeling for the button to shut off the alarm clock. He
managed to press the button—knocking over the alarm clock and
sending it crashing to the floor.

Karen woke up, startled by the loud noise.

“What happened?” she asked, rubbing the back of her neck.

“Karen, can you see me?”

“Yes, of course. Why do you ask?”

“Karen, I can’t see you. I can’t see anything.”

“Oh my God!” she screamed.

He began searching the air with his hands, turning his head constantly,
eyes seeking out the unknown.

She looked at him, frightened by what she saw. “John, what’s
happened to you?”

“Put the light on. It’s so dark I can’t see anything.”

She turned the lamp on and asked, “Does this help?”

“What? . . . What are you talking about?”

“I’ve just put the lamp on. Don’t you see any light at
all?”

“You put—I don’t see any light.”

She looked at his right foot. “Your toe is back. It looks
normal—”

“I don’t give a damn about the toe! I can’t see!”

“What do you want me to do?” she asked, bewildered.

“I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

“Oh, John, you were supposed to pick up your mother and go to the
hospital.”

“How the hell can I go? Call my mother and tell her I can’t make
it—tell her I’ve got the flu or something.”

“Okay, John, calm down. I’ll call her right now.”

“And call the bus company and tell them . . . tell them . . . tell them
I broke my hand and you don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“Okay, honey, take it easy. I’ll make the calls—”

“Hurry up and come back here. I can’t stand being alone. PLEASE HURRY!”

She quickly left the room, and he heard her footsteps fade away.

His eyes opened wide, searching the blackness, and said, with teeth
clenched, “I never should have smoked that damn pipe.”

He heard a voice from somewhere deep within his mind: But you did,
didn’t you?

“I made a mistake. I made a terrible mistake.”

But you wanted that car. You wanted to drive around in that
Mercedes-Benz. You wanted the whole world to know John Ferguson had a
Mercedes-Benz.

“I had no way of knowing. How could I possibly know the pipe would do
this? My father said the pipe had magic.”

Magic. You wanted magic. Do you see the magic? YOU CAN’T EVEN SEE
YOUR FACE IN A MIRROR.

“Oh God, please help me.”

And why should God help you? When was the last time you were in
church? One year ago? Two years ago? The last time you were in church was
when you and Karen got married in Our Lady of Angels.

“But I had to work Sundays. The bus . . . I had to drive the bus.”

Excuses, excuses, that’s all you’ve been making for years. You could
have gone to church in the morning, and you know that. Now, isn’t that the
truth? Be honest with yourself—for once in your life stop making
those damn excuses and own up to the TRUTH.

“If I get my eyesight back, I will go to church. I swear it!”

You never should have smoked that pipe, John T. Ferguson.

“I know that. I know THAT. I KNOW THAT!”

Suddenly there was utter silence: the voice coming from inside and the
other voice from outside had stopped. Was he crazy? No, just talking to
himself—same as most of us do when we’re upset. Was he angry,
confused, sorry, and devastated? Sure, he was all these things and why
not? After all, the pipe was supposed to bring happiness, not blindness.
But it did bring blindness and there was no way to change that. Or was
there?

Karen was in the kitchen when Brian came home from school.

“Did Dad’s toe come back?” Brian asked.

“Yes,” Karen said weakly.

“Oh, wow!” Brian shouted happily. “That’s amazing!”

“Yes, Brian, it’s amazing,” she said, her voice cracking.

“Mom, what’s the matter? You sound like you’re going to cry.”

“It’s the onion,” she said quietly.

“But, Mom, you’re peeling a potato.”

“Brian, I told you it was the onion. Now please leave it alone.”

“Sorry, Mom, I didn’t know. Did Dad go to work today?”

“No, Brian, he didn’t.”

“Where is Daddy?”

“He’s in the bedroom,” she said, raising her hand to wipe away
a tear.

Brian started for John’s bedroom.

“Where are you going?” she asked sharply.

“To see Daddy.”

“No! Your father doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“I just want to see if his toe really came back.”

“Brian, I told you it did.”

“But, Mom—”

“That’s enough! Go to your room and do your homework.”

“I don’t have any homework,” he said, looking down.

“Karen!” John shouted, his voice sounding desperate.

She walked quickly to the bedroom.

John was sitting in bed, eyes staring blindly. His hands were spread out
sideways on the mattress, giving him balance.

He heard her footsteps enter the room and asked urgently, “Karen,
is that you?”

“Yes, honey, what’s the matter?”

“I’m going out of my mind—that’s what the matter is!
Karen, I want to be able to see again.”

“John, tomorrow you can smoke that pipe again. And tomorrow
you can wish for your eyesight to come back. You still have another
wish—”

“Karen, are you crazy? If I smoke that pipe again, who knows what else
I’ll lose—an arm, a leg, maybe both! Do you know?”

“Well, no. I was just—”

“Karen, forget it.”

“John, what do you want me to do?”

“Stay with me awhile. I feel so alone here in the darkness,
unable to see, unable to do anything. Karen, I’m afraid I’ll never see
again. I can’t stand living in this darkness. I don’t know what the hell to
do. If I wish for my eyesight to come back, I may lose something even
worse. I don’t know. And yet, if I don’t wish for my eyesight to come back,
maybe I’ll never see again. What am I supposed to do? For Christ’s sake,
Karen, what am I supposed to do?”

He suddenly buried his head in his hands and began sobbing
uncontrollably.

Brian stood there looking at his father. It was the first time he had
ever seen his father cry. He rubbed his nose, looked down at his shoes, and
then turned to leave the room. He went straight to his bedroom, jumped into
bed and cried his eyes out.

The next evening, Karen was sitting on the sofa, and John was sitting in
the La-Z-Boy recliner with the footrest extended, leaning back, and eyes
staring mindlessly into the room. The package of tobacco was lying on the
table next to him; the shiny black pipe was in his right hand. He held the
pipe so tightly that his knuckles turned white.

“Karen, fill the bowl with tobacco,” John said firmly.

“Are you sure that you want to do it?” she asked.

“I have to do it. This is the only chance to get my eyesight
back.”

“It’s the last wish,” she said solemnly.

“I know. Whatever happens . . . happens. I want to be able to see
again. I’ll take whatever comes my way. But this is my only hope . . . and
I have to do it.”

She took the pipe and filled it with tobacco, and then placed it back
into John’s hand.

He put the pipe in his mouth and said, “Give me a light.”
Karen lit a paper match and placed the flame to the tobacco, telling John
when to puff. She stayed there with him, tamping down the tobacco and
relighting the pipe.

Brian walked into the room and sat down on the sofa. He watched Karen
use the eraser end of a pencil to tamp down the tobacco, and stand next to
him ready to be of assistance.

John’s eyes were closed, and one hand tightly held the pipe. He puffed
slowly.

I am wishing for the return of my vision. I want my eyesight back. I
want to be able to see again.
He repeated those words over and over in
his mind.

Brian stared at his father. He tried to look away but couldn’t take his
eyes off John and that shiny black pipe. He hated that pipe. He wanted to
take it out of John’s mouth and throw it in the garbage can.

God, please help my Daddy. I know my Daddy will never smoke that pipe
again. Please God, make my Daddy open his eyes so he can see.

Karen walked over to Brian and gently moved a hand through his hair.
“Why don’t you go to bed, sweetheart?” He looked up at her, and then looked
back at his father.

“The pipe is going out!” John shouted.

Karen rushed over to light the pipe.

Brian lifted a finger to wipe away a tear, and said in a trembling
voice, “Dad, I don’t care about the computer. I really don’t. I just want
you to be able to see again. I only—” He broke off suddenly as the
tears trickled down his cheeks, touching his lips, and he couldn’t complete
his thought, crying into his hands.

Karen looked at Brian and she began to cry.

“Stop it!” John shouted. “Stop it both of you! I have enough sadness in
me without hearing you two sob like that. Look, I am trying the best I can
to deal with this. Do you understand I am trying to wish for my eyesight to
come back? Do you understand what it’s like to live in darkness like I do?
I can’t see anything! And I don’t know if I will ever see again. I could be
spending the rest of my life like this. All my life I could see . . . and
now I am blind.”

Karen touched his shoulder, gently, and wiped away her tears with the
other hand. He lifted the pipe and was having trouble putting it back into
his mouth.

She sensed the problem and asked quietly, “Honey, would you like me to
help you?”

He lowered the pipe to his lap. “Karen, if only—I never should
have taken this pipe. Why did my father give me this damn pipe? How could
he do this to me? Why, Karen, why did he do it?”

Brian cupped his hands over both ears, and then ran out the room with
tears streaming down his face.

When John finished smoking the pipe, he instructed Karen to wait until
the pipe is cool before emptying the ashes. He sat there staring mindlessly
into the room, his hands tightly holding onto the armrests. He looked
frightened.

Karen picked up the pipe and turned it over to empty the ashes, giving
the pipe a few hard taps. She then looked at John and said, “John, I’ve
emptied the ashes.” She paused, waiting for an answer. He was leaning back
in the recliner with eyes closed and didn’t give her a reply.

“John, what do I do next?” she asked.

He didn’t answer.

She placed both hands on her hips and shouted, “John, will you please
answer me?”

He still didn’t answer.

She paced back and forth and worried if something was wrong. Has he
lost his voice?
she wondered.

She began shouting at him: “For God’s sake, will you please talk to me?
John, what am I supposed to do next?”

He turned towards the table and reached out with a hand, as if feeling
for something.

“What is it, John?” she asked. “What are you searching for?”

“The pencil, Karen, it should be on the table. That’s what I used the
last time, the point of a pencil.”

She found it and said, “I have it, John, now what?”

“Use the point to remove any remaining dottle.”

“Dottle?” she asked, bewildered. “What’s that?”

“Just remove any burned or partially burned tobacco in the bowl.”

She did as instructed and then placed the pipe into an ashtray.

“John, is there anything else you want me to do with the pipe?”

“No, that’s it. There is nothing else you can do. Tomorrow—”

“John, why didn’t you answer me before when I kept asking you about the
pipe?”

“Karen, I was praying. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. And
I—”

“Oh, honey, you don’t have to explain. I know you’ve been going through
hell and—”

Suddenly the phone started ringing. Karen quickly went over and picked
it up.

After she was on the phone for about five minutes, she got a pen and
began writing on a sheet of paper. When her conversation was finished, she
slammed the receiver down, took the sheet of paper and rushed back into the
living room.

“John, your mother just called.”

“How is my father?”

“I’m sorry, John, he passed away earlier this evening.”

“Damn! He was my only hope. Now—”

“John, there’s more. Your father forgot to tell you something
when he gave you the pipe, so he wrote a letter explaining what you have to
do. But he must have forgotten to tell your mother to mail it because she
found the letter on the floor near your father’s bed. She was going to mail
it, but I convinced her to open the envelope and read it to me over the
phone.”

“Please, Karen, I can’t take it anymore. Tell me, what did he
write?”

“He wrote there was one very important thing he forgot to tell you
to do after you smoke the pipe. After you empty out the dottle, you have to
clean the pipe with some pipe cleaners. You are supposed to take off the
black stem and put one pipe cleaner through it, and then put another pipe
cleaner through the hole inside the shank—”

“Where’s the shank?”

“Your mother said that according to the picture your father drew,
it’s the part that connects to the stem.”

“Okay, go on.”

“You have to insert the pipe cleaner through the hole inside the
shank until it enters the bowl, moving it back and forth a few times before
you take it out. Then double-up another pipe cleaner and swab out the area
inside the shank. And finally, double-up another pipe cleaner and rub it
around inside the bowl to clean the interior. If you don’t do all this,
then for every wish you make you’ll lose something. Your father didn’t know
what, only that something very important to you would be lost.”

“My God, how did you remember all that?”

“When your mother told me there was a long list of instructions, I
got a pen and wrote it all down,” she said, waving the paper in the
air, even though she knew he couldn’t see it.

“Karen, why the hell didn’t he call to tell me this?”

“I asked your mother the very same question. She thought he might have
written it down expecting to tell her to call us with the information, or
maybe because of the drawing. She really didn’t know.

“Karen, we still have time. For Christ’s sake, go to Sav-On and buy
a package of pipe cleaners—and HURRY!”

She went to Sav-On and returned with the pipe cleaners, and then cleaned
the pipe according to the instructions.

She led John into the bedroom and helped him get into bed. He tried to
pull up the blanket but repeatedly missed the edge; she reached over to
help him and felt his hand trembling.

“Don’t worry, honey, tomorrow everything will be all right,” she said
quietly.

He whispered something and closed his eyes.

Brian peeked out his bedroom window and saw the snowflakes falling
lazily to the ground. He stood there, watched the snow beginning to pile
up, and remembered how John would push him down the hill in his sled; he
wondered if it would ever be that way again. He jumped into bed and pulled
the blanket up and buried his nose into it, feeling the softness, and it
reminded him of the cat they had a few years ago—the cat that got old
and had to be put to sleep because it went blind.

He clasped his hands and silently prayed: Please God, don’t put my
Daddy to sleep.

“Karen, I can see!” he shouted, as she lay there still asleep. “Karen,
it worked—I can really see!”

She turned over, a big smile on her face, and quickly sat up in bed.
“Oh, honey, I—”

“Christ, Karen, I got to tell you I was scared out of my mind. I fell
asleep with my eyes closed and feared they would never open again. I
mean—”

“I know, honey. Let’s just be grateful your mother—”

“Yes! If she didn’t—jeez, I have to call and tell her the good
news. I want—”

“John, it’s too early to call,” she said, glancing at the alarm clock
showing 6:15 A.M.

“You’re right, Karen, I’ll call her after breakfast. Let me take a quick
shower.”

John walked into the bathroom and smiled at himself in the mirror.

A voice bellowed out, deep and menacing: “You dirtied my pipe, Mr.
Ferguson.”

“Who-who are you?”

“I am the pipe maker, Mr. Ferguson.”

“I don’t under—”

“I made that pipe with the silver star under the bowl. It took me a long
time to make that pipe, Mr. Ferguson.”

“You can have it back, whoever you are. I don’t need it—”

“You fouled the stem and I don’t like that. The shine has been
clouded by the imprint of your lips and that makes me very angry,
Mr. Ferguson.”

“I can clean it. I’ll—”

“You don’t understand, Mr. Ferguson. Your mother forgot to tell your
wife something very important—you have to wipe the stem with a clean
cloth and make it shine or you will DISAPPEAR! You have two minutes to get
that stem clean or you are going to vanish—disappear—do you
understand, Mr. Ferguson?”

“Disappear?”

“Look at your slippers, Mr. Ferguson.”

“Christ! Where are my feet? What—”

“You have one minute and thirty seconds, Mr. Ferguson.”

“KAREN, GET A CLOTH AND CLEAN THE STEM,” he shouted to Karen who was in
the other room.

“John, what are you talking about?”

“You better make sure she uses a clean cloth, Mr. Ferguson.”

“KAREN, GET A CLEAN CLOTH AND WIPE THE STEM—PLEASE HURRY!”

“Okay, honey, don’t get so excited. I’ll get a cloth from the
kitchen.”

“Who are you?”

“I am the pipe maker, Mr. Ferguson. I make those stems by hand, not from
some molded vulcanite. Each and every stem is hand-cut from the rod. It
takes me hours to make every stem, and I don’t like to see them looking
dirty.
You have forty-five seconds, Mr. Ferguson.”

“KAREN, HURRY! Christ! I can’t see my legs or stomach!”

“Thirty seconds, Mr. Ferguson. I want to see that stem looking brand new
or you are going to vanish like a puff of smoke.”

Karen came running with the pipe in one hand and a dishtowel in the
other.

She saw him and her face twisted into a mass of horror. “John, what
is happening to you?”
she screamed hysterically.

John looked at the stained dishtowel. “KAREN, I TOLD YOU A CLEAN
CLOTH.”

“I’m sorry, John, this is all I could find,” she said, weeping.

She glanced up and saw the only thing left was his head. He was like
some ghostly apparition that was part human and part inhuman. His head hung
there as if suspended in air.

“GODDAMMIT, KAREN, I TOLD YOU A CLEAN CLOTH.”

“Your time is up, Mr. Ferguson.”

“Why are you doing this to me?”

“I have said, Mr. Ferguson, I do not want to see my stems dirty.
I take great pride in making the most extraordinary pipes in the universe.
I am the pipe maker. I AM THE PIPE MAKER.”

“Kar—”

As the early morning sun illuminated the bedroom, John opened his
eyes.

“I can see!” he shouted, raising his arms in the air. “Christ!
That damn dream scared the shit out of me.”

Karen sat up, rubbing her eyes.

He looked at her and said, “I can see, Karen. I can see!”

He put his arms around her and they engaged in a warm embrace, holding
each other tightly. She pressed her face into his chest and whispered,
“Thank God. Thank God you can see again.”

Suddenly, John eased his grip on her and gently pushed her away. He then
began checking himself to see if anything was missing. Everything was
there—arms, legs, fingers, toes, but he still wasn’t satisfied. He
got up and went into the bathroom to look in the mirror. He stood there
looking in the mirror and smiling at himself.

(I am the pipe maker)

“KAREN, GET A CLEAN CLOTH AND WIPE THE STEM—AND HURRY!”

“What?”

“JUST DO WHAT I SAID AND HURRY UP!”

(I AM THE PIPE MAKER)

John looked in the mirror and thought he saw a strange face, angular,
with dark eyes and a pointed nose, and smiling, showing teeth that were
ragged.

(I AM THE PIPE MAKER, Mr. Ferguson)

“Okay, my wife is cleaning the stem. Just take it easy and don’t
worry.”

She stood there gasping for air and holding a stained dishtowel.

“OH, NO! KAREN, I SAID A CLEAN CLOTH. DID YOU WIPE THE STEM WITH THAT
FILTHY CLOTH?”

“John, what is the big deal? You are acting really weird.”

“KAREN, LOOK AT MY FEET.”

“And what is so special about your feet? Personally, I think my feet are
prettier.”

He looked down at his feet and saw that they were normal.

“For Christ’s sake, that dream I had last night is haunting me. I
thought—”

“What dream?”

“Forget it, Karen, just forget it.”

The next day, a letter arrived for John: it was the letter his father
had written. At the bottom of the letter, the word “over” was
written in parentheses. Apparently, John’s mother didn’t see it and wasn’t
aware of what was on the other side. John turned it over and it read as
follows:

“Any wish that you have made without using the pipe cleaners,
except the first wish, will not be counted against you. If by some terrible
chance you have used all three wishes, then you can regain two wishes if
you have not used a pipe cleaner. But you have to follow my instructions
for cleaning the pipe.”

John smiled.

He told Karen the good news, and then they embraced one another, their
lips touching in a long, passionate kiss.

That evening, John smoked the pipe again. And this time, he used the
pipe cleaners.

The next morning, they all awoke in a beautiful house in Carlesdale.

The following night, he smoked the pipe for his last wish. And the next
morning, Brian had a computer.

The Fergusons were very grateful for the pipe. Even though there was a
terrifying beginning, in the end it was a dream come true. The new car,
house, and computer, made them so happy that they cherished the shiny black
pipe. And they purchased an expensive pipe rest to hold the pipe, keeping
it on display on a table in the living room.

Eight months later, the pipe disappeared—the dog that Brian got
for his ninth birthday might have had something to do with it. In any
event, if you happen to find a shiny black pipe with a silver star under
the bowl, take good care of it, and keep it clean. Let the pipe rest for a
day, even longer, three days would be nice. And don’t forget to use pipe
cleaners after every smoke. Be good to the pipe, and maybe it will be
especially good to you.

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