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Graphic courtesy Steve Cartwright

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The Customer

By Sean Robertson

 

“Cigar smokers never quit,” she said.

“They just cut back.”

She curled her finger around

the lit cigar and rested

her hand on her knee.

 

She raised the Churchill to her lips,

and puffed gingerly yet produced great clouds.

Tendrils rolled out of her mouth

and were pushed away when she said,

“I feel masculine with this big thing.”

“I was always the lady.”

 

As she rolled the cigar in her fingers,

she puffed more to keep her burn.

“Sometimes I miss her,” she said.

“She was always smoking cigars.”

“Everyday, when she got home from work,

she’d sit in her fancy wicker with legs wide.”

She smiled and locked eyes with me for a moment.

 

She laughed and her eyes barely welled.

“She was always such a man; even tried

to shave her face in hopes it would grow

her a glorious beard to hide behind.”

 

As she set her last third in the tray nearest me,

she batted her eyes, smiled and whispered

“I never told anyone I was gay.”

Her eyes swollen with unbroken tears,

she turned to leave my shop and stopped by the door.

With her hand on the handle she stared at the floor below

and said softly to me, “You’re alright mister.”

“Thanks for listening,” she said, and was gone.

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Sean Robertson is a BS student at Emporia State University, working on a minor in Creative Writing. He lives in Emporia, Kansas.

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Kristoff Maduro

Cigar Review by J. Conrad Guest

 

Christmas 2008 ─ the gift that keeps giving for twelve full months: a scotch calendar that each month features a different bottle of scotch from around the world. It pays, often in strange ways, to be editor of The Smoking Poet, as this was a unique gift from my managing editor. So it became a New Year’s resolution to try a bottle from each month – not that I intend to drink the bottle in its entirety before the month is out, but hey, as my dad was fond of telling me, “You only live once, and I don’t think you’re going to make it.”

While in Grand Rapids over the holidays I grabbed a bottle of Jura (June’s offering). On this Saturday morning – the first in March – while shopping in what just became my favorite liquor store, Good Time Party Store in Northville where I met Jim, the proprietor who let me take home for a few days his copy of Michael Jacksons’s (no, not that Michael Jackson) Malt Whisky Companion, I picked up a bottle of Aberlour – January’s scotch (okay, so I’m two months behind). I opted not for the sixteen-year-old the calendar featured but, for a dollar more than the sixteen-year-old, the a’bunadh, a non chill-filtered single speyside malt from batch number 23, bottled straight from the cask at 60.2% alcohol. Speyside is a reference to Strathspey, the area around the River Spey in Moray, Badenoch and Strathspey, in northeastern Scotland.

Hey, you say, I thought this was supposed to be a cigar review. Patience: all good things come to those who wait.

From Good Time, I made my way to Trader Tom’s, what has become one of my favorite local tobacconists, to pick up a Kristoff maduro, which has quickly become one of my favorite cigars. While waiting for the diminutive owner of the establishment to ring up the cigar, she caught me eyeing a candle and quickly offered it to me at half price. No, she wasn’t flirting with me; I could tell from the amount of dust on it that she wanted to move it out of her store, so I gave her a nod to add it to my purchase.

I made it home before noon, but like a kid on Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to pour a sampling of the a’bunadh to go along with the Kristoff (hey, my deadline is this weekend!). So I heated a snifter and poured two shots of this very caramel-colored liquid, gave it a swirl and admired its legs before taking a sip, holding it a moment in my mouth before swallowing. I sighed deeply as I felt it warm my stomach.

Now, to the Kristoff – definitely a handsome smoke with its oily maduro wrapper, pigtail head and shaggy foot, the latter a throwback to the Cuban cigars of yesteryear. I took a moment to enjoy the scent of the aromatic wrapper, then snipped the head and struck a cedar match purchased from Nat Sherman’s on Fifth Avenue during my last trip to the Big Apple. The Kristoff took to flame eagerly, courtesy of the shaggy foot, and rewarded me with great plumes of white smoke.

The Kristoff tastes as good as it looks, with almond and hints of spice, the maduro wrapper complimenting the double fermented Nicaraguan and Dominican Republic filler tobaccos with an earthy flavor.

It didn’t take long for the Kristoff, along with the a’bunadh, to soothe away the effects of a stressful workweek. Fear over the state of the economy and the future of our country dissipated as I realized life is good, is worth living, with a good cigar and a single malt scotch. The Kristoff finished sweet, overall a medium to bold smoke, and I was left satisfied, undaunted by a gray, rainy Saturday afternoon, comforted by the Kristoff and buoyed up by the a’bunadh.

Yeah. Life is good.

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Wouldn’t Trade Tom’s

by J. Conrad Guest

 

I discovered Trader Tom’s by accident a year or so ago when Hines Park flooded the result of heavy rains, forcing me to take an alternate route home from work.

Located on Seven Mile near Northville Road in Northville, Michigan, its fašade is rather nondescript, nearly lost in a strip mall that features a Chinese restaurant, a hair salon, and several other small businesses. Tom’s features a good sized walk-in humidor well-stocked with  smokes that will appeal to all palates and pocketbooks.

The owner is a tiny sixty-something woman, knowledgeable in all things cigars, who has recommended to me more than one good cigar over the year I’ve frequented her establishment.

Trader Tom’s also sells other cigar-related items from lighters, cutters and humidors, to candles. Interesting knickknacks appear in display cases throughout this fine establishment ― from a clown kicking back in a recliner enjoying his favorite cigar, to several tiny replicas of famous baseball parks, including Tiger Stadium. In the back is a cigar lounge, with coffee provided gratis. No light-up fee is required for those who bring their own stick.

Trader Tom’s seems a popular establishment – always a patron or two whenever I walk in the door, always friendly, most regulars. I’ve not yet indulged in the lounge but intend to at some point. I only wish she opened earlier than 10:00 on Saturday – but hey, not everyone is a morning person, and she deserves to sleep in on a Saturday.

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Opus X

Cigar Review by J. Conrad Guest

 

The Opus X (that’s X as in “ex” not the Roman numeral 10) is supposedly one of the most sought after cigars in the world. Made from Rosado tobacco, the filler, binder and wrapper are all produced in the Dominican Republic. The price tends to be prohibitive for my budget, but when I happened across a three pack of robustos at a reasonable price, nicely packaged in a handsome tin that doubled as a travel humidor, I indulged.

The wrapper, medium brown in color, was inviting, and the construction nice, although the label is a trifle gaudy for my liking. Each stick was wrapped in a cedar sleeve, a nice touch. I used the sleeve to light the Opus X and prepared myself for what Cigar Aficionado rates as the most requested cigar at tobacco shops.

The Opus X was enjoyable, a mild flavored smoke, smooth throughout, never bitter and never overpowering. The taste was pleasant, but unfortunately nothing befitting the buildup I’d previously read in several publications. I detected some coffee flavor maybe a third of the way through the smoke, which faded soon thereafter, but little in the way of complexity I enjoy in other more affordable cigars.

All in all, I was rather disappointed in the Opus X, which only proved what I’d learned long ago: that, at least where cigars are concerned, price isn’t everything.

Overpriced and overhyped.

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Steve Cartwright was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers, and recently illustrated the Cimarron Review and Stories for Children covers.

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