My wife innocently asked if there were any pipes in my collection that were of particular value to me and if I might point them out to her. I'm no fool, so I naturally responded that I had nothing worth more than $10 and that all my pipes were virtually valueless. Then I started searching the house for lethal traps.
She's pretty smart, though, and left no clues pertaining to immediate dangers. Still, why would she make such an inquiry if she wasn't suspicious? She's never had an interest in my pipes before and was obviously planning to dispense with me. Some might think I'm paranoid, but the fact is, if she knew what I've spent on pipes and pipe tobacco during our 30+ years of marriage, no jury would convict her for torturing me to death and leaving my despicable, decomposing corpse in the driveway as a warning to other pipe collectors. I've maintained a secret bug-out bag for many years now, including a one-way ticket to Ukraine, 50 tins of tobacco and 30 pipes, just in case she discovered my duplicity. I needed confirmation first, though.
After reassuring myself that there were no deadfalls or sabotaged electrical switches awaiting me, I determined that she was taking every precaution to avoid discovery. That left only one possibility: She had recruited our two cats.
I should have recognized it sooner. The cats despise me and would be easy to enlist — they've never forgiven me for accidentally triggering the smoke alarm a few years ago. They'd been sleeping comfortably underfoot when I stupidly lit a pipe while standing directly under the smoke alarm in the kitchen. The alarm instantly transformed the cats from sleeping lumps to vertically accelerating missiles. They launched five feet into the air before reaching perihelion, where they hovered weightlessly before stapling themselves to my face in a death grip of clawing panic and recrimination.
I tried to pry them off with a spatula, but they weren't inclined to vacate their positions until the alarm ceased. With snarling and wailing cats obstructing my view, I climbed a chair to disengage the alarm, a difficult task when every neuron in my brain was demanding that I hose those cats off my face and chase after them with a golf club.
Since then, the cats and I have observed a strained détente of sorts, but I noticed an increase in offensive tactics since my wife asked about pipes. They have tried to trip me on the stairs, they've attempted murder-by-arson by pushing my smoldering pipe into the couch seat cushions, and they dragged a poisonous snake into the house and planted it in my shoe (OK, they didn't actually do that last one, but I can see in their eyes that they're thinking about it and I am on alert).
My wife noticed how jumpy I was around the cats and asked what my problem was. She is masterful at posing such questions when I'm distracted and unable to maintain psychological defenses, and I was horrified to hear myself blurt out the actual truth: "Because you've convinced the cats to kill me so you can sell my pipes and cavort with a tennis pro in Cancun." She laughed. "Where did you get that idea?"
"You asked which pipes were valuable so you could sell them after you and the cats get rid of me."
She kissed me on the forehead. "Silly man," she said. "I asked that because I wanted to buy you a new pipe for your birthday and needed to know what you liked best. But if it's going to cause this much consternation, I'll just look for some slippers."
So I have slippers to look forward to. I wonder how the cats will sabotage them....