Cigars

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

A Jermyn Street tobacconist's. Stephen is behind the counter, Hugh isn't.

Hugh Good morning.

Stephen I beg your pardon?

Hugh I said good morning.

Stephen Oh sir. You've not heard?

Hugh Heard what?

Stephen Oh sir.

Hugh What?

Stephen Sir, I think I am a generous man, and I will happily bear many things. Burdens, architectural down-loads, even perhaps on fine summer days, your children. But bad tidings, sir ... bad tidings are too much for an inelastic old fool, such as you are currently experiencing, even to bear.

Hugh Bad tidings?

Stephen Suffice to say he's expected to make a full recovery.

Hugh Who is?

Stephen Call Nick Ross.

Hugh What?

Stephen Call Nick Ross is doing as well as can be expected. Meanwhiletime, a nation can only hold its breath in silent prayer and reflect in its quieter moments that flu can be a horrible and a very beastly thing.

Hugh Nick Ross has got flu?

Stephen Call Nick Ross is, according to sources close to Call Nick Ross, ill with the flu, sir, yes. How callous and casually violent your airy description of the goodness of the morning now sounds in your ears.

Hugh Right. I'd like to buy a box of cigars, please.

Stephen Cigars, of course. For smoking?

Hugh Well, yes.

Stephen Well, yes. Well, yes. Did two finer words in our language ever join hands and creep nervously down the aisle of utterance than "well, yes"? If they did, it was without the help of a reputable catering firm, of that I am absolutely tall.

Hugh What else would I use cigars for?

Stephen Sir, the thought flitted across my knees that you might be thinking of using cigars as a means of personal transport around the crowded streets of our city. They are small, manoeuvrable, easy to park, and use almost no petrol.

Hugh But they don't move.

Stephen Sir is quick and alive to the single disadvantage of cigars in this respect. They do not, as Winston Churchill himself would not have been ashamed to say, move.

Hugh Well, no, I want to smoke them.

Stephen Sir wants to smoke cigars. He wants to take them out of the box, singly or in threes, put them in his mouth lengthways and apply a flame to the furthest end. Do I misjudge my man so terribly? I think not.

Hugh No, that's right.

Stephen Does sir imagine that he will be in a dressed state of affairs when the mood of ensmokement descends?

Hugh I beg your pardon?

Stephen Will sir be sheathed in habiliments, I am in the rapidly- expanding business of wondering, or will he be allowing the breath of God to caress his flinty flanks unhindered by layers of silk and, oblique stroke or, corduroy?

Hugh I will be dressed, yes.

Stephen Sir will be dressed. Will he, in this consummately dressed state, be in the company of four young walls and ceiling, or will he be starkly alone?

Hugh Outside?

Stephen I believe that the young Francis Bacon coined the term "outside" to describe just such a state of exteriority as I have been fumbling to express.

Hugh I doubt I'll be smoking outside.

Stephen Let me reach down into my word bag once again and feel for fitting shapes and textures to pull out and surprise you with. Ah, my word-fingers close around "dressed" and they sense the smooth outlines of "inside". Sir will be experiencing the fumal joys of his cigaroid pleasure-cocks while "dressed" and while "inside". I HARDLY THINK I CAN PUT IT MORE PLAINLY THAN THAT.

Hugh Forgive me for asking, but what on earth has it got to do with anything whether or not I'm inside or outside, nude or clothed?

Stephen NUDE! "Nude!" he said, smiting his brow with the back of his mind. Nude was the very word I could have used earlier. It would have saved us an hundred syllables of pointless and unutterably tedious exchange earlier on. Why did I not simply say, "Will sir be nude?" My aunt and my cousin (a cinema projectionist in Hove, as was) will never forgive me.

Hugh You haven't answered my question.

Stephen I am now busy until the end of the month wondering if sir will allow me to answer his simple, manly question with one of my own?

Hugh Oh, very well.

Stephen You are kindness herself.

Hugh Well?

Stephen Sir?

Hugh What is your question?

Stephen Stand back to admire it, sir, because though I say so without an interpreter, it's the best question asked since man first arose from out the primordial cup-a-soup and asked "What is the word for that tiny sleeve of plastic at the end of a shoe- lace?" My question is this and it comes without sponsorship of any kind: "What are you doing here?"

Hugh Well, I think I'm trying to buy some cigars.

Stephen Some? Some cigars? Oh sir, that is the most vest-dampening attitude I have heard since Peter Lilley was in here, trying to buy my ...

Hugh Trying to buy your?

Stephen My silence, sir. You tell me you are trying to buy "some cigars". This is not a shop that sells "some cigars", this is a shop that sells only the very finest cigars that sexual favours can buy. Cigars that think, that feel: cigars that adjust themselves to your mood and your state of arousal.

Hugh Are you saying that you sell different cigars for indoor and outdoor use and different cigars for being clothed or unclothed?

Stephen No sir. I am emphatically not saying that. But I could. By God, with a fair following wind, a sip of Aqua Libra, a week's rehearsal and a nod from you, I could say exactly that.

Vox Pop

Hugh I like a nice bit of fresh sleep. Not like that tinned stuff.

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