50

The old man searchs his old pipe in the pocket of his frayed jacket, but it’s not there. He looked more carefully, now surprised, in his other pockets. On one of his hands there are some dirty springs that had been attached to his slightly sweaty skin, but not the pipe. It was neither in any of the multicolored pockets of the shirt, nor in the pants, where he ends up looking in distress. The pipe remained nowhere to be found.
He was sixty five years and for twenty years he had been dragging the same pipe from his lips to his hands, from his hands to his lips, with brief stays in the depth of the right pocket of his jacket, which strongly smells of nicotine, a rough old nicotine smell. In all those years he had changed jacket four or five times, not more, and with every change the smell would install there, unchanging and persistent. Only he had gotten used to it. Not his young daughter. She had not been able to get used to that ocre stench that would stir her guts every time. Not very often, she would take the jacket for a was. The stench did not fully go away, but the piece as a whole was more presentable. Not that it mattered much. That was above such things. His temper was naturally philosophical and when, later, due to health issues he had to stop working in the construction business to become a gravedigger, this innate disposition grew accentuated by the imperatives of the trade.
He took the episode of the lost pipe badly, despite his philosophy. It was an old friend that would not be easy to replace. Buying a new pipe was easy enough, but it took time to get used to it, to get it used to him. First it had a certain taste or aftertaste of wood, something extremely unpleasant only removed by the days and years. There was nothing like an old pipe, blackened and burnt. He had lost it, it was evident. He returned early enough, retracing the path that he had walked an hour before, to the foot of the niche, and there he began to think about the circumstances of his departure, the gestures he had made, the moment he had put the pipe in his pocket for the last time, since it was not there, when he had removed the pipe from the mouth to leave it in a place he could not figure out. He could not remember it well.
He went out of the cemetery, crestfallen and melancholic, because only there he could have lost it. One last time he went back, as he came to think that he would say the keeper that if he found a pipe of its kind it was his. But the keeper knew the old man’s pipe by heart, and no descriptions were needed. He wasn’t very concerned anyway. If he found it by chance, fine, but if he didn’t, he would not think about it that much.
Later the old man thought about whether to also warn his colleagues, but they were already far ahead. He would tell them tomorrow. It would be strange if the pipe wasn’t recovered. They would certainly not understand his anxiety. None of them smoked a pipe, and they did not know what such an object could mean to someone after twenty years of uninterrupted use. He would warn them anyway. And if they found it, they would give it back to him. He was sure about that. But they would not spare a joke or two.

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