In the Forecast

For Donn

The tobacco shop below the street has its own weather. I keep having to remind myself that street level, like sea level, is a useful fiction — though this seems as counter-intuitive as the claim that the Romans didn’t begin their grammars with fumo fumas fumat. It would take a Delphic pythoness, wreathed in the smoke from her tripod, to clear this up.

The greyhound stretched out on his usual pillow in the middle of the floor is looking a little under the weather today, as the proprietor puts it. We might be talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls one minute & the bombs raining down on the Balkans the next. Too long an interval between customers & it gets a little deep.

There’s definitely something odd about people who smoke. Only a certain lighter will do, for example. Perhaps for this reason, the proprietor addresses all patrons as Sir or Ma’am. I watch him drop a big jar of rolling tobacco while trying to fill an order, his hands suddenly jerking away as if from a hot stove. We stare at the pile of glass & tobacco with a mix of wonder & dismay — the way one would feel, I imagine, after witnessing a rain of frogs.

The dog meanwhile has gotten to his feet & is slowly moving his long muzzle from side to side. The wind’s about to change, he says with every tense muscle. And he should know.

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