Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Smoking Fig

“Hey, Ienas!” I looked up from my decanting, and looked to see if it was me being hailed or my son.  It was me this time and my boy smiled as he swooped past the bar, a tray full of empty glasses balanced effortlessly over his head.

“Go on, Da... I think this might be good,” he said as he whipped by me.  That made me suspicious.  What were they talking about behind my back?  No more birthday/horse-trough surprises I hoped.

It was Riala, a Dyer friend of mine... a girl of all things.  She was making her name with the Marble Palace and the Fortunate Fifty, making scandalous clothing for them all.  She had a line of ‘plunging’ or ‘bathing’ costume this year that was shocking enough to have me blushing.  It showed men and women’s bare feet and calves!

She sat at the fan-niche table with a tall guy who was the weirdest Dyer I’d ever seen.  He had a full, bushy beard when most Arkan men weren’t that hairy their whole lives, and clean-shaven the norm.  It made my Ienie stand out, with his gold-beaded moustache that he could click at you if he so chose.  This Dyer's beard was twisted to a dozen points on his  red, collared shirt...  His beard points were each one a different, eye-blinding, colour.

“Hello, Serina,” I said as I sat down with them.  The Fig was medium busy, so the shaded patio was where most people were.  Or up in the rooftop garden, so inside was pretty quiet.
“I’ll put you in a drum-rant if you call me that!”  She knew I liked teasing her.  She was worth any five of her worthless, Aitzas male relatives.

“Please do.  The Fig can use all the publicity it gets!”
She snorted at me, then introduced her friend.  “This is Dafias.  He has an idea for you.”

Oh good.  Another idea.  At this rate the Fig would be either owning or renting this whole block.  I had to admit things had changed a lot from my tiny, hole in the wall, exclusive wine bar I inherited. Da, you'd not recognize the place. The Fig with a big patio, The Figgish Gourmand... a restaurant big enough to need the faib-skater servers.  A rooftop garden.  “I’m not sure...”

“—Ser if you’d hear me out.” Dafias’s voice was fairly deep.  “You have this niche here and you no longer need a fan-boy for customers now that you have the windows made to fold open to the patio.”  That had been an idea I’d paid for, last year, and it made things just so much cooler and breezier.  It was better for the babies, too, when the place was full of bodies and my daughter-in-law run off her feet.  Better air, anyways.

“True, but what can one do with a fan-niche?”

He smiled.  “You’ve always been a connoisseur of really fine wines, Ser, and your partner trusts you to pair the wines to his food, hmmm?”

I nodded.  “So, what if afterward a fine meal someone wishes to have a bit of dessert, another sweet glass... and a pipe?  I’d fill that niche with the hundred varieties of Arkanherb and be able to cut your customers the perfect accompaniment to their sweet and their wine.  Why ruin a great meal by letting your customers smoke some dirt-weed their cousin grew in the back midden?”

Now I smoked a bit.  Every food-shop owner/chef/wine steward that I knew did.  My own supplier wasn’t bad.  It was Nikas the herb-shop owner in the Agora Market.  I admit I was sceptical.  “It’s not that bad!  Smoke is smoke.”

“Hey and wine is wine.”  He had a point.  “Say you had just your platter with what to drink?”

“A fourth year Asinanai, now.  Or a robust Niceas of the past decade.”

“Not a Ro?”

He had a twinkle in his eye.  “No, they had a few bad years recently.”

He pulled out a ceramic herb-case, but one that was the size of a book, with a dozen compartments.  The scent that wafted from it when he opened it was intense and wonderfully green.  I could almost taste it, just from the smell. I could see the table over next to us, lingering over their wines, their heads turned to check us out, just from that magnificent aroma. “What kind of buzz would you like after a platter and a glass like that?”

I thought I’d play along.  “How about... A smooth, strong start.  Not too abrupt and with a long finish on the palate.”  Let’s see what he did with the wine-language.

He just nodded, and picked up three different heads from his case.  Something frosty looking, something more golden and one almost blue.  He cut them together deftly on the lid, packed the pipe I offered him.  “I’d have house pipes...” he said absently.  “That way I could be sure of the residues.”  Or how clean they were.  Mine, admittedly, was a bit sooty.

I found myself watching his hands, the way they moved as they ran the cleaner through my pipe and deftly packed it.  I lit up my beeswax cord and my pipe, drew in a full lung, not sure what to expect.

A... strong start... very, very smooth, like butter on the tongue on the lung... hmmm. I could see and feel the edge as it came up and it was like stepping off a top step rather than getting dragged up and dumped into the buzz like some... Nice.  Very nice.  I let the aroma roll around my palate as if it were wine and exhaled reluctantly.  It would hold up very well to the red wines I’d mentioned.  I closed my eyes to think about it.

A herb wall and smokery as part of my Fig?  I took a second, thoughtful hit and was boosted slightly higher, but gently, as if I were sitting on a feather cushion.  Very nice. Riala grinned and inhaled from her own pipe, when I opened my eyes.  They knew me. I sighed.  “And the girls are after me.  They want to rent the mousehole across the street for a Seras'  Cream Cake and Kaf shop.”

“All ways to serve your customers,” Riala said.

I noticed that Dafias wasn’t as calm as he tried to show me.  He wanted it, was passionate about his plants -- and he knew his stuff.  The herb hit was still letting me down, gently as if I were a bit of thistledown. He watched me pretty carefully.  I snagged Riji on the way by.  “Be a dear, Rij and get Dorn for me?  We have a potential new market here.”

I saw the smile, even through the face-fuzz and Riala giggled at me.  Riji said ‘Sure, boss,” and zoomed off into the Gourmand.

“Let’s us see if you can pair your smoke with the food as well as the wine!”

This post is Dave's story, for winning my last comment contest with all his poetry and doggerel.  A superlative effort, Dave!


  1. This explains a lot about Dave. ;)

  2. Why whatever do you mean? ;-) This humble author has no idea what the esteemed reader is implying about a totally fictional character. Totally fictional, I say!

  3. Dave is fictional? How'd he win the contest then? Has Cleverbot gotten good enough to write poetry now?
    *starts singing* These are the Daves I know, I know: These are the Daves I know...**

    yay Riala! She rocks!