(From a Private Communique, dated IX XXX MMVIII, found in memorabilia of the
Aloisius Bartholomew Reginald Masterson-Smythe collection. I report with minimal editing; entry follows in three parts.)
The Macanudo 1968 Caper
part the first
On Thursday, I excused myself from employment about an hour and a half into the morning, the exertion of reading the local newspaper leading me into a state of great exhaustion. Arriving home by eleven, I felt barely well enough for tea, but managed. Following a restorative but robust round of cricket in the fresh air, my malady returned, forcing retirement early in the evening; I bade my fellows adieu and enjoyed a nightcap.
Not entirely cured the next morning, I remembered that one cannot be fully rested without a bath, during which I decided that a proper straight-razor shave might be of aid, an activity which first required coffee and a pipe of fine Virginia flake. Indeed, I felt considerably better after this very recommended curative regimen, though I wasn't yet fit to return to work-- it was once again tea-time.
After tea and cakes, I carefully selected a good clean pair of silk underwear (other materials leave the humors out of balance), and chose a tie which properly reflected my state of mind, projecting a successful workplace attitude.
I was about to select an invigorating cigar in preparation for the day's toil, when the door-knocker sounded. Peddigrew, my dwarf, announced that Chang the Chinaman had come calling.
That Chang! Always punctual.
It had been a long while since I'd heard the Oriental's autocar clattering in the drive, a curious brown contraption emblazoned with gilt initials and strange symbols, lacking a door on the driver's side so that the nimble fellow might leap out to swiftly deliver parcels without the impediment of a portal.
As always, the serious-looking man wore his foreigner's clothes in brown to match the delivery-vanagon, with golden stripes. He wore same ridiculous hat I always saw him in, and his brown shoes and pitifully outlandish short pants revealed matched brown socks. He seemed tense, so I decided to say something pleasant.
"Why, Chang!" I said, "A fine day to you! I do say, of all the Chinamen I know, you have but the finest timing of all."
Chang's eyes glinted dangerously, the words of an Oriental curse upon his lips. Mercifully, he refrained-- having to explain to the firm my absence on account of ancient Cantonese sorcery would have been an exercise in unpleasantry.
"Call me that to my face again, an' you'll be eatin' out of a funnel the rest of yer life. Take it, an' sign here, jerk."
Using the supplied inkless stylus to mark his curious tablet, I claimed my parcel with great incredulity, unable to fathom why he should mind my complimenting his superb timing. Chang left muttering and in a dreadful hurry, without tea-- no doubt to his next adventure in far-away lands.
Pausing briefly to reflect on the package's long journey, imagining the many rickshaw trips Chang must have taken to bring it so far, the ocean voyages by junk or catamaran or vessels unknown it must have endured, my reverie was halted when I noticed that the post-mark was not in fact from Ceylon or Cameroon, but of the very town in which I dwelt.
The parcel was from none other than my arch-nemesis, Einrich the Teuton. I opened it carefully, being wary of any booby-traps or poisons my old "friend" may have slipped in for nostalgia's sake.
What I found within moved me to far greater suspicion than any manner of quaint inveigelment, for it was a devious construction in two parts: a sheet of fine vetiver-scented stationary and wrapped within it, of all things, a single chestnut-hued cigar!
You surely may understand now my vexation as I read the letter, and learned that the Teutonic Terror said the cigar was a peace offering to me. He wished a chance to begin a productive correspondence. He even generously offered to accommodate Chang's special postage requirements.
"So the Teuton makes at last his move," I muttered. Too disconcerted for a cigar, I lit instead a large Meerschaum of burley and latakia. It was absolutely essential for contemplation.
Long had it been since Einrich, Alfons the Turk, and Christo the Honduran last danced a tango of death with me, over the matter of a wild Chilean pear trap-- but, that is another tale for another time, for though I was victorious, the memories are unpleasant and I do not wish to now summon them: Unto this day, the terror prevents me from eating certain fruits with my bare hands.
I turned the cigar over in my hands. The last time I had smoked a Macanudo, it had been out of severe desperation, a slender, rather pale cigar used only a last resort at a dire time, and not at all to my taste.
This item was different, however. An attractive, richly colored, moderately veined wrapper enclosed a shaft of formidable girth. At surely six Imperial inches, it smelled of heavy spice and promise. It was perfectly round, and very firm in construction.
"Surely," I thought, "this cannot truly be a Macanudo. Some secret game-- and no doubt a deadly one-- must be at play."
At a snap of my fingers, my dwarf promptly brought quill, ink, and blotter, stationary, and Fez. He got on all fours and dutifully leveled his back.
Between latakia-laden puffs, I contemplated this Cigar of Mystery as I addressed a missive to my old companion, Hasim the Arab. Of all those I knew, it was he who would be surely the most adept at advising me.
I wrote, as Peddigrew waited patiently.