The following tale is completely true. And why wouldn’t it be? Does anyone really write stories anymore? For reasons of necessary anonymity, names and places have been changed for obvious reasons. We’ll call him Chuck. Chuck is a friend of mine, and thank goodness. The government he works for employs him to extract things from people. If you’re lucky, that only means information, but whatever he needs to get out of you, he will. His nickname is “The Press” for reasons I’ll leave up to your imagination. Chuck is an expert, a gentleman and a good friend to have handy when you need unique things. His cover? He run’s a fantastic restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina called Mary Beth’s.

One of Chuck’s responsibilities is to keep tabs on creatures of interest. This might be a mob thug, or it might be a Gorgon or it might be an ancient witch. The government Chuck works for does not want it’s public to know about things like Gorgons, but at the same time, they want to keep them alive.

Chuck and I both like really peaty scotch. When I get the opportunity to hang out with Chuck, I bring Laphroaig. It makes us both happy and it tends to give me incredible insight into Chuck’s covert work. When I found out about the Gorgons, I couldn’t help myself. I had to find a way to incorporate real Gorgon’s blood into pipes. Here’s what I know: Gorgon’s blood, once cured properly, turns incredibly hard. Not quite stone, but really close. I read, that’s how I know. Not best sellers, the stuff you don’t find in common places.

Not long ago, I paid Chuck a visit at the aforementioned establishment to discuss the Gorgon’s blood idea and hopefully convince him to help me acquire a bit to use on the exterior of some pipes. We sat at the usual table on a usual day, and discussed very unusual things. Before too long, Chuck and I worked out a deal, and sooner than I could have hoped for, he was on the phone with a phlebotomist friend of his, telling a wonderful story and explaining how she’d have to wear special mirrored glasses for the job. 

Apparently the phlebotomist understood Chuck’s unique position very well, or owed him big, because I didn’t get the sense that many questions were asked. Let’s say my job was to get blood from people. If my friend called me and said, “I need you to get blood out of someone’s arm, but you can’t look them in the eyes, need to wear special glasses, oh, and you can’t tell a soul.” I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have lots of questions. But Chuck has his way. Within just a few minutes, all necessary instructions were given and Chuck was given an ETA for the Gorgon’s blood.

Chuck tells me I should share the idea with one of his dishwashers. We’ll call her Summer, and as you might have guessed, dish washing is only her cover. I agreed and Chuck called her over to the table. Summer is an old soul. A very old soul, and old body too really. About 3,000 years old, which is exactly why Summer can be found employed by Chuck.

Summer loves stories. She gets a kick out of them because she knows the truth behind most of them. Being old does that to a person. As I sat there with Chuck and Summer, at Mary Beth’s restaurant, we talked stories. Summer loved the Gorgon’s blood idea, but started asking me to make a pipe about story book witches through the ages. A sort of homage to them and their misunderstood ways. A burned, charred, ashy and rough exterior made of things only Summer could possibly own in her keepsakes over the many, many, many years of her existence.

Was I excited by the idea? Incredibly! After all, Halloween was right around the corner at this point. The veil between the worlds is the thinnest and all that. Fantastic time of year. From a small satchel she withdrew a tiny corked bottle. Inside were the incredibly small items I would use in the “brew” as she called it. The instructions were hastily written on a napkin and guarantees on it’s look and feel were given. I saw a wide grin on Chuck’s face as he said, “You see?” Indeed I did. 

Summer spoke at great length about the history of witches and she set me straight on a number of misconceptions I had. She pointed to my muddy boots and asked, “Where on earth have you been?” “Best place on earth.” was my reply. “The swamps of Florida.” In the middle of the day, in the middle of a restaurant, Summer pulled a piece of spanish moss off of my boot and said, “Here, let’s use this.” as she placed the moss onto a china saucer. Without skipping a beat, she dipped her hand in her water glass, splashed it on the moss and said something that kind of sounded like, “Ocala, Suwannee, Mud Lake.”. The moss transformed. It was now a moving substance. A swampy aroma settled in around me. “What is it?” I asked her. She replied, “It is the swamp. It is the essence, the spirit, the things you love about your swamps and it will not run out. Coat some pipes with it and see what happens. It will never die. I think you’ll like it.” 

When the server came ‘round to refill our drinks, she discretely slipped a small phial to Chuck. Without even looking, Chuck handed it to me. “This.” is all he said. Earlier that day, I walked into a restaurant looking for help in acquiring Gorgon’s blood. Amazingly, I left with it in my possession. As well as the ingredients to a witch’s brew of some sort, and supernatural swamp spirits. All this in one day. My payment for these 3 concoctions? A bottomless bottle of Single Malt Scotch that I won from a djinn in a game of djinn rummy, and a small casket of authentic moon rocks for Summer (unlike the shams used to dupe the unknowing public.)

You may find this story about the beginnings of my 3 new pipe lines (Bog Beast, Strega Fumoso and Gorgon) difficult to believe, and I don’t blame you. After all, what are the chances that there is a place, a restaurant, in Greenville South Carolina called Mary Beth’s? And if you did manage to find such a place, the owner would definitely not be someone who goes by the name Chuck “LaPress” who happens to know a magical girl named Summer. It just couldn’t happen. Right?

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AuthorOlie Sylvester