Excellent as always! Thank you for a wonderful story.
The tropical night was warm and humid, with a soft breeze blowing in from over the water. Night life in Key West was in full swing, with all the clubs up and down Duval street throbbing with the beat of live music. The crowds on the sidewalk drifted slowly, with the tourists moving like a slow tide from place to place. But one couple didn't show any interest in the tourist spots, they were making their way deliberately up the street to the wharf at the end. There, sat a collection of low wooden buildings that were some of the hangouts of the hard drinking locals. The man and woman were in search of a particular bar that had been recommended to them by a half drunk local that afternoon. What they found was the Schooner Wharf bar. A low down building of peeling plywood painted a dark brown, with only a partial roof over the bar itself. The rest of the bar was covered with a collection of tarps strung out over some tables that sat on a gravel floor. Only the around the bar proper was a rough cement floor.
Inside was a collection of the hard drinking locals that they had hoped to find. The real Key West, not the tinsel tourist bars with watered down drinks for a high price. A low plywood stage held a duo of performers, one with a guitar, and the other with a collection of drums of different type, and they were doing eclectic selection of old rock tunes with a Caribbean jazz touch. The man and woman found a table near the bar and ordered a couple of rum runners. When they came, the bite of a goodly dose of rum was heavy on the tongue.
"Well, they don't short you the rum, that's for sure!" the woman said to her husband.
The husband nodded in approval as he listened to the two man band.
"Not bad, not bad at all." he commented.
They sat and enjoyed the music, sampled some of the food the bar had to offer, and were pleasantly surprised at both the quality and quantity. The spiced shrimp was excellent, as was the fish and chips, with the fried grouper done perfectly. Crispy on the outside but not dried out inside. After some drinks and food, the hour was growing late, and they made to leave. Paying the more than reasonable bill, they were making their way past the bar when they saw him. He had escaped their notice as they had been seated on the other side of the bar, but they came face to face with a remarkable fellow. He was standing behind a makeshift wooden stand of cigar boxes, and was selling cigars in the bar. The line of boxes held cigars of different sizes and diameters. A small sign in hand written letters stated that they were hand rolled Dominican cigars, and the prices seemed low. But more attention getting than the cigars, was the seller himself.
It was hard to judge his age, as it could have been anywhere from 50 to 65. Dressed in a faded old black T-shirt and jeans that were ragged and split at the knees. His skin was tanned to the point dark brown leather, with lines creasing his face in a network of canyons. His long white beard flowed down his chest, matching the long white ponytail down his back. He was possessed of a good humor that showed in the laugh lines as he grinned at the tourist man and his wife.
"Hello there. Can I interest you in a fine cigar to enjoy with a fine evening?" he asked with a grin, and a very unmistakable New York accent.
The tourist man had already bought some cigars from a shop on Duval street, but was intrigued by the cigar seller in the bar itself. He looked over the display, and picked out a couple that he knew, moderate size Maduro's. He felt them for freshnss, and handed two five dollar bills to the seller. The seller took one five and slipped it the pocket of his faded jeans, and laid the other five on the bar and motioned for the bar tender to get him another beer.
"The cigars pay for my bar tab and then some." he laughed.
"Do I hear some northern accent in your voice? I thought you were a local when I saw you." the tourist said.
"Well, I've been here for over 20 years now, so I don't know if that makes me an adapted local. I came down for a vacation, and got bit by the bug."
While the cigar seller was talking, the tourist had taken out a small pocket knife and was getting ready to slice off the end of the cigar.
"Oh no, no, here, ya gotta do it right. Let me show ya." the cigar seller said as he reached into his pocket.
Expecting the seller to take out a real cigar end cutter, the tourist was taken by surprise by the exquisite pearl handled lobster pen knife. That it was very old, the man knew from his own small pocket knife collection. The cigar seller opened up a small scissors and neatly snipped the very end of the cigar cap off.
"That's some knife you have there, mind if I take a look? I sorta collect them."
"Oh sure, here ya go. I've been a collector for most of my life, and those lobsters are part of my former life I couldn't leave behind in New York. Just too nice, and they really don't make them like that anymore. Literally.
The tourist looked over the knife in the light of the overhead by the bar. As he moved it, pink and blue fire played in the depths, and on the main blade he could see the stamp of one of the great firms of Sheffield. Large and small blades, a long thin reamer, small scissors, and what he knew to be a button hook blade. The fit and finish was perfect, with the krinking so well done that there was no blade rub between the close fitting blades as they nested in the pearl handle. Almost reluctantly, he handed it back to the white bearded cigar seller.
"I have to say, I never expected to see a Sheffield lobster here in Key West. "
The cigar seller looked retrospective for a moment.
"I used to be a suit type back home in New York. Not Wall street, but just off Wall street. Everyday I wore a thousand dollar suit and delt with lots of the upper crust. Drove a high end German car, and I thought I was happy. Then I took a fishing trip down here. Loved the place, and when I went back home to the office, something was different. I took another vacation a few months later, and roamed around down here for a week. Didn't want to go home, but things needed to be done. When I did go home, I told my boss that I quit, gave all my suits to the Salvation Army, sold the car, and gave away most of my stuff. All except my knife collection. I'd collected all those nice English lobster pens, and I couldn't stand to part with them. Kind of like artwork. So I wrapped them up in a soft cloth, and they came to Key West with me. Every day I pick witch one I'm going to carry, and at the end of the day I wipe it down and put it back in the collection. Maybe it's a hold over from my former life, something really fine to have. On the other hand, a pocket knife is a nice thing to have. Some extra tools on them won't hurt. So here I am a cigar bum in Key West with a fine knife that maybe some English landed gentry may have carried. I ditched my Rolex, but kept the lobster pens. Crazy huh?"
"You ditched a Rolex watch?" the woman asked incredulously.
The cigar seller laughed.
"When I was here for a few weeks, and I really knew I was never going back, I walked out on a pier, and threw two things as far as I could. My watch and my razor. Both represented to me the worst of materialism and greed. I didn't want any part of either in my new life. But my knife collection was a reminder to me of how handy a small sharp pocket knife can be. Especially if it has a few tools on it. If it's beautiful, that's just an added pleasure."
"Your right, a nice pocket knife is a handy thing to have, old or not." the tourist said. "It doesn't have to be big, just sharp."
"Hey, I like that. Good saying, I'll have to remember that one." the cigar seller said.
They parted company, and the man and his wife chose to walk down Whitehead street for the quieter evening. Back at the guest house, they sat on the second floor veranda by their room, watching the ocean as the half moon turned it to a field of liquid silver, glittering as it moved.
"A dime for your thoughts." the woman said to her husband.
"I thought they were only a penny." he replied.
"It's Key West. Everything is more expensive on vacation." she joked.
"I'm thinking how much we can get for the house."
The woman sat up on the sofa, the rattan creaking as she moved to look closely at her husband.
"Are you serious?" she asked in amazement.
The man took a long draw on the cigar and let out a blue cloud of aromatic smoke.
"Don't worry, I'll keep my knife collection and you keep your Tiffany collection."
The woman smiled and settled back in the creaking rattan sofa beside her husband, and they looked out over the night ocean.
Excellent as always! Thank you for a wonderful story.
Loved the story jackknife. Thanks.
Another great story the Keys and most tropical places do have a special charm.
Another good read.
There is no good, no evil, no saints, no demons; There are just ordinary people making ordinary choices.
Great story man. Thank you sir.
Trade that Rolex for some more knives though .
Last edited by silenthunterstudios; 08-11-2012 at 10:33 PM.
Great story, Carl! Thank you for the read
Thanks for the great story. You helped me get out of my Friday-3 O'clock blues.
Another great one Jackknife. Thanks.
What a great read with my morning cup of coffee. Thanks for another fine story Carl.
Another good one! Thanks Carl.
Cool. The perfect Saturday morning coffee.
But this I know with all my heart,
HIS wounds have paid my ransom.
-Stuart Townend, 'How Deep the Father's Love For Us,' c1995, ThankYou Music
I thought this cigar smoker's knife was a good illustration of the one in the story. I hope it's ok to post it here.
Last edited by smiling-knife; 08-12-2012 at 09:37 AM.
Thank you s-k, I'd been hoping you'd pop in and show some nice examples of the Sheffield lobsters.
Your pocket jewels are always a welcome sight.
Another great story. Thanks jackknife!
Great read. Thanks for taking the time...
Bravo...that was a great little read. Being relatively new here, and having read the comments....I take it you have a penchant for storytelling. I will have to start pouring over your posting history in search of a few more of your gems!
What a great story to come home to, after spending the week at summer camp smoking cigars (while the Scouts were in merit badge classes of course!).
Every day I trimmed my cigar cap off with a very sharp knife, Case BSA Peanut of course
Thanks for the story Carl, a terrific read as always!
Good read Carl....BUT, I am not sure I could stand for you to move to sunny Florida. I didn't grow up on Hemingway and the Old Man and the Sea, I was a midwest boy in love with anything duck hunting and poured over all the stories of Baymen and the marsh. To this day I still think I would like to take a bull Canvasback diving into the blocks out of the curtain of a snow squall. If you really were to go, I will at least expect to hear of the fight with the 100lb tarpon. Cheers 300
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