Smoke Rings


The old man sat quietly, cross-legged outside his tent, puffing on his pipe. All day long he had been catching walleye in the cold river, and he believed that a break was in order. The old man’s breaks were different than the breaks of you or me, however. He found pleasure in telling stories; he had a sharp tongue and he loved to demonstrate.

Tonight he had quite the audience. Two sets of bright black eyes were glued on the old man and his pipe.

“Let me tell you’uns a story. But ‘fore that, lemme ask a question.” The old man took a big puff from his pipe before continuing. “Any of you ever saw a smoke ring?” There were no responses, as it was obvious neither of the youngsters had a clue of smoke craftsmanship. So, the old man took another whiff from his pipe. This time he blew out three gray rings. Each one was considerably smaller than the previous and was perfect in every way.

“Those were some rings,” stated the old man, proudly. “It’s pretty fascinatin’ stuff, if you ask me. Betcha didn’t know that those rings are ways of communicatin’,” he paused, taking in another round from his pipe. Then with his eyebrows raised, he continued, “Communicatin’ with extraterrestrials, that is.”

He hadn’t convinced his audience, though. Both of them never stopped staring at the pipe, and each was expressionless. So the old man resumed. “Naw, not just any ring’ll work, you see. You need a certain type of smoke from a special ingredient. Like this one here,” he pointed a long, bony finger to his pipe, “I made this one just for communicatin’ with those extraterrestrials.” He cackled, which caused himself to be caught in between nasty coughs and laughter. This going back and forth lasted several minutes.

“So you may be wonderin’ what my message was back there. Well, that was no message. The secret to understanding the language gets clearer the more you use the special ingredient. And you have to use it every night, ‘cause you tend to forget the secret over time. I’ll demonstrate…” This time the old man drew three breaths from the pipe. He exhaled a series of Os, but these weren’t as flawless as the ones before.

Moments of silence pass, and the old man tilted his head with closed eyes. He was inhaling the second-hand. “Just you wait fellas. I’m no fool,” he whispered.

Suddenly a bright beam of light shone down on the earth, casting a clear circle around the old man. Not a moment passed before he and the light disappeared strangely into the night. He was nowhere to be found. The dying campfire continued to cast caricatures onto the linen tent. The old man’s watchers turned to each other in unison.
“Geez, I’m sure glad that’s over,” the squirrel says, his tiny voice echoing throughout the forest. “How long do you think we’d have to wait if we told him we were only here for the booze?”

The other squirrel beamed and rubbed his hands together. “Just wait until the rabbits hear about this!”

The two rodents snickered and open the cooler, revealing six cans of unopened Coors. They finally got what they were looking for.

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