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Paraphernalia

A Very Short Story

by Rick Cusick

In the early 22st Century, as this recurring daydream unfolds, my adolescent great grandchild is getting into trouble. No surprise there. Quietly climbing the old stairs with a few siblings or friends, these urchins-as-yet-unborn go up into the attic where the family keeps all the stuff she’s not supposed to touch. They rummage through a lot of storage bins and a few wardrobes, finding in old clothes and keepsakes the colors of our future. Finally, kneeling inside an old trunk, my dear great grandchild, (she has her grandmother’s – that is to say, my father’s  – eyes), paws through a few disparate keepsakes of enduring resonance but with meanings which have all but dissolved over the span of just a few generations. One by one these mysterious objects are carefully removed and set next to each other on the hardwood floor: a small box of broken pottery marked “Egypt”; a white votive candle contained in a palm-sized glass, lit once apparently for some reason and then never again; a thick-chambered conch shell nestled inside the crown of a child’s collapsible silk top hat and a grey rock with some significance even I can’t recall.

Reaching into the bottom of the trunk, she plucks  and unrolls a long glass cylinder wrapped snugly in a dusty dark purple felt. The clear glass tube is some sixteen inches tall, trimmed with cherry red and cerulean complications and inlaid throughout with flecks of real gold that grab the waning sunlight creeping through the third-floor widow.

“What is this?!” one of the urchins asks. None of them have ever seen anything like it before.

“I have no idea,” my kid’s kid kid admits, “but my mom told me they had to pry it out of her grandfather’s cold dead hands.”

“I know what it is!” says the wise-ass know-it-all, because there’s always one in every bunch.

“It’s a bong!”

“A what?”

“A bong. A kind of pipe that they used way back when to smoke marijuana.” 

“They used to smoke marijuana?!!”

“Uh huh,” the wise ass inserts. “Before bio-chips.”

Amid the chatter my great granddarling picks up her tube and walks over to window to get a better look. She holds it up to the light and turns it slowly so that the colored glass could catch the dwindling sun. The child marvels at the craft  and thoughtfully observes: 

“You know… they don’t make things like this anymore.”

 

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