Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
I had a restless night last night and didn’t get much sleep. Too many things on my mind I suppose, and so today I kept nodding off. I went out to the garage to smoke some Balkan blend that I have, (I love that Oriental tobacco) and fell asleep in my smoking chair! When I came in I thought I’d try to get a little writing done. The computer I write on is on an old desk in my dining room which is about 18 X 18 feet. (I live in a big old farmhouse.) I sat for awhile to think about what I wanted to write and nodded off again! I don’t think I was out long and when I raised my head I had my pipe in my mouth. And it was lit and smoking.
Wow, my wife’s going to be mad, I thought. I don’t smoke in the house. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement and I thought it was my wife. I was just about to explain what I was doing and turned my head, but to my surprise, it wasn’t her. There was a man standing about 10 feet away from me. He was dressed in long flowing pants and a V neck shirt with billowy sleeves. A finely embroidered vest topped the shirt. He had a long droopy mustache and a large turban wrapped around his head. My first thought was that he looked just like a character out of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves! When he turned toward me I could see a long gleaming scimitar hanging from his belt.
Not understanding what was going on I asked, "What are you doing in my house?" He turned and looked quizzically at me.
"Your house?" he asked. "Your house?" He leaned forward and let out a hearty laugh. "Well good sir, if this is your house then you must be a thief."
"A thief?" I said. "What are you talking about?"
"I smell your tobacco. It is of the finest kind. To afford such a treasure you need to wealthy indeed. If this hovel is truly your home then you must have stolen the tobacco from a rich man. I will relieve you of the burden of your stolen property and if you trouble me not, I may leave you with your head."
I stood up. Several thoughts ran amok through my mind all at once. He entered my house without permission, insulted it and called me a thief. Not only that but he looked like he just came from a costume party and now he wants to take my Balkan tobacco. I had never been more confused in my life. "What?" I said stupidly.
With a motion as quick as lightening he swept the scimitar from his belt, took three quick steps toward me and lightly touched it’s tip to my Adams Apple. "Give me the tobacco without complaint, and you may keep your head. Where is it?"
"I, ah…umm…ah…wait a minute! You can’t just come in here and threaten me like this!
With a murderous look in his eyes Ali Baba grasped the big sword with two hands and swung it over his head. As it came towards me I backed up slightly and the gleaming blade sliced right through the bowl of my pipe, which was still between my teeth. The pieces fell to the floor along with some burning tobacco. Absurdly, I couldn’t help but think how mad my wife was going to be when she saw the burned carpet. He bellowed with rage. "Give me the tobacco fool!! I have had enough of this! I will slice you from head to toe!"
I did the only thing I could think of. I ran, into my living room. A bad move on my part because the only way out was back past this crazed guy with the very big sword. He chased after me and I circled back toward the dining room. As he twisted around to follow me a large, long necked bottle fell out of a satchel he had slung across his shoulder. It rolled under my feet and I kicked it as I was running. The top popped out of it as it rolled across the floor and smoke began to pour out of it. Something about this was vaguely familiar. The smoke shot up into the air and as it began to clear, Barbara Eden stood in my dining room. I was dumbfounded. "Barbara Eden?" I said. "What are you…what…"
"Oh master," she cried, "You have released me from my prison! Thy bidding is mine to perform. Ask anything of me and it will be yours!"
"Get us out of here!," I yelled. Just as my pursuer’s hand brushed the back of my shirt she folded her arms in front of her breast and gave a quick nod of her head.
Beige. Everything was beige. A warm breeze blew across my face and I could feel the heat of the sun on my neck. I looked around. The beige I saw was sand. Miles and miles of sand. "Where are we?" I asked.
"We are in my home land," she said. "It was the safest place I could think of."
I sat down on the sand. I needed time to clear my head. What had just happened was impossible but it had happened anyway. "So you’re not Jeannie then, I guess."
"Who is this Jeannie, that you speak of? And Barbaraeden?" She said the name like it was one word. "Are they your wives?"
"My wives? No." I shook my head. Sitting in the impossible sand, I explained. "There was this T V show called, I Dream of Jeannie. The lady who starred in it was Barbara Eden. You look just like her. Man, I’m confused." A short way from us I could see a group of palm trees and some people and camels. Moments ago I was in my dining room. This must be Candid Camera, I thought, but I don’t see Allen Funt. "Where’s Allen Funt?" I asked, still sitting in the sand.
"Your speech is very strange to me, Master. I find it hard to follow your meaning. I am a genie and have lived in captivity in that bottle for centuries, kept their by the evil lord who pursued you. But you have set me free and now…what are you looking at?"
I saw something on the horizon and it seemed to be moving our way. Very fast. It looked like a bird but different somehow.
"Oh no!" she exclaimed, "It is him. He has found us! We must flee! She folded her arms again and nodded her head. The sand and the camels were gone and we were in a market place. Sellers and buyers were shouting and arguing. Women, dressed in Arabian outfits and men with turbans walked the streets.
"Oh man, my head! You’ve got to stop doing that."
"It is the only way to protect you, Master. If he finds us he will surely kill you and I will be most severely punished. This is my village. I have not been here for a very long time." People passing us stared at me. I suppose it was the clothes I wore. "This was a bad idea," she said. "We are not safe here." Again she crossed her arms and nodded. Instantly we were in a desert oasis. Palm trees, a fresh water pool and more camels.
"Stop that!" I said. My head can’t take this anymore." She plopped down on the sand and pouted. "Look," I said, "I’m sorry. This is all too much for me. I don’t understand what’s happening."
"Well, it is all very clear to me," she said. "My former Master wants to kill you. I am a very valuable possession and you have taken me from him. What would you expect him to do. You have embarrassed him." As she was speaking I noticed something out over the sand. It was the bird-like thing again.
"I think we’ve got company," I said. She jumped to her feet and twisted around for a look. She turned back to me and folded her arms once more but I stopped her. "No wait," I said. "This is crazy, this can’t be happening. This guy is chasing me for my Balkan tobacco. You can get it online, or in just about any pipe shop! I don’t get this. We can’t keep running. We’ve got to stop him."
"He will kill you master. We must flee!"
As he got closer to us I was convinced I had lost my mind. He was on a flying carpet. Screaming words I couldn’t understand, he and his carpet dipped down towards us. As he got even closer I realized he was using a rug from my kitchen. "Hey, that’s mine!" I shouted and jumped up and grabbed a corner of it as he flew over us. He flipped off the rug and plowed into the sand. Jeannie let out a whoop of joy. Holding the rug in my hand I asked, "Can you fly this thing."
"Your wish is my command, Master. Climb aboard." We stood on the rug and it lifted into the air. We flew high over the Turbaned man as he bellowed with rage once more. Up, up we went into the clear blue sky. I had never felt so free, flying along with no noise but the wind in my ears. "Watch this," Jeannie said. The rug started to dip and climb and turn.
"Ah, maybe you don’t want to….ahhhhhh!!!!" I fell off! I was falling and as I fell I reached out toward her. "Jeeeeaaannniiieee," I yelled as my face hit my computer keyboard. I sat up with a start and looked around. I was sitting at my desk in front of the computer. I must have nodded off again and had a crazy dream.
My wife peeked in from the kitchen. "Who’s Jeannie?" she asked. Rubbing my eyes and yawning, I decided I better lay off that Balkan tobacco for a while.
Marshall Lee Armstrong enjoys camping, fly fishing, kayaking, painting, drumming and writing. He has published two books of poetry and writes a blog called “The Window", which includes a section called "SMOKIN‘" where he writes about cigars and pipe smoking. He is 58-years old, and has worked as a Rock Band Drummer, Electroplater, Chemical Process Technician, and Circuitry Manufacturing Supervisor. He is currently a Medical Lab Technician. He started smoking pipes in 1980.