Half track was a good cook and cooked up a roast he’d brought. With the fresh veggies he’d bought and more from the garden, the salad bowl was full and complemented the roast and potatoes. Roland and I hadn’t eaten so well for months. The girls were pleased, especially since they didn’t have to cook. After dinner the girls went for a walk down to the Women’s collective to see the fiber arts project. Roland, Halftrack and I adjourned to the front room. Mike pulled out three Havana cigars and a cigar trimmer. Roland’s eyes lit up and he stepped quickly to the kitchen for proper wooden matches.
“Alright! How’d you get these into the country? Rolled up in carpets?”
“I’ll never tell,” said Halftrack.
“Hey! I’ve got some of Joe’s special custom whiskey out in the bus. Don’t light a fire till I get back,” I said hotfooting it for the door.
When I got back Roland asked, “How’d you talk Joe out of a whole fifth of his whiskey?”
“I’ll never tell,” I said; then, “No, I did a little favor for him when he was sick last winter.”
Joe was one of the Tar Heels who lived on the mountain. He was nearing seventy and still worked in the shipyards. He was a proud man who made it to work every day no matter what the weather. Sometimes he carried a chainsaw in his pickup to saw trees fallen across the road by heavy wet snow. He played bluegrass fiddle like there was no tomorrow and mentored several local musicians. But lately he’d begun suffering lung disease from long years of insulating pipes. Some days he could not get his breath and couldn’t even leave the house. On those days he’d tend his latest batch of whiskey.
“Hot damn! Bourbon and branch. All we need now it some ole timey fiddling,” Said Roland as he set the glasses on the table.
While I was out at the bus Mike had trimmed the ends of the cigars. He handed one to Roland and struck a match. Roland puffed until he got a good fire going and smiled broadly. Mike handed the next one to me and struck a match for me being careful to let the sulphur burn away. I puffed away and got a good draw. There is truly nothing quite like a top grade Havana cigar. Their reputation is well deserved.
Roland filled a bottle of water from the kitchen tap. I hoped the artesian well water hadn’t suffered from its trip into the well. He set the bottle next to the glasses on the table. I set the whiskey bottle down along with them.
Roland said, “Somebody open a window. The girls will flip if the place is full of cigar smoke when they get back. The door was already open but Roland wasn’t taking any chances. I walked over and threw up the double-hung sash and pulled the top sash down.
Roland poured himself a healthy shot of whiskey and took a sip, “Ahh, that’s good stuff. You can’t buy that quality at the liquor store. Needs no branch at all.”
Mike followed suit, puffing on his cigar as he poured out a drink. He took a sip and smiled.
“Listen, we’ve got some business to talk before the girls get back.”
“What’s that? I asked”