Thomas had brought friends to town for a visit. One night I came home and there was a gift box with a bottle of Scotch on the counter, a present thanking me for my hospitality. It was called Bruichladdich The Laddie. How Scotch is that?

I hadn't done much to deserve the gift. Sue had cooked all the meals, but I am a friendly sort and they may have confused friendliness with hospitality, the difference being one requires hard, honest labor and the other, a smile.

This is Scotch weather. Cold mornings, cold evenings. A fire at night.

I'd never understood the Scotch thing before, but there is something so simple about taking a short glass from the cupboard and pouring oneself a small measure of the amber-colored liquid.

"Dad, that's four ounces you're pouring there," Sam said, disputing the "small" part of my description. "That's pretty healthy."

Sam, that's "pretty healthy" because I feel pretty healthy. I am a pretty healthy guy, so when I pour myself a glass of Scotch, I like to pour a pretty healthy shot.

Scotch travels easy. A glass goes from the table to the recliner to the bedside table as easily as a pair of reading glasses or a book of short stories. However, if the bedside table is its final destination, it might be better to finish the contents before dozing off so you don't accidently wake up in the middle of the night, forget that it's Scotch in your glass rather than water and take a healthy swig of quiet fire.

Scotch is a companionable drink. It will keep you company by the fire, at the dinner table and late at night on the sofa after everybody has gone to bed. Couple Bruichladdich The Laddie with Blueberry, the new cat, and I had all the company I needed.

A bottle of 10-year-old Scotch is impressive. Having one in the cupboard suggests permanence that might bridge seasons, if not years. Like champagne, Scotch is commemorative, something to break out for special occasions.

Four or five days after I started on the bottle of Scotch, I noticed something odd. Either there were more "special occasions" than I had realized or somebody was sneaking sips of the Scotch because there was more air in the bottle than liquid. You can't drink air, although many have tried.

Who was it? It couldn't have been Thomas and his band of merry pranksters -- they were long gone. Sue doesn't drink Scotch. Sam drinks beer. That left only Blueberry, the cat, and she drinks her water plain, cool and unadulterated.

"Sam, somebody is drinking my Scotch," I said. "I'm about out of it."

He looked at me and started to say something, then he stopped as if what he had to say wouldn't do any good.

A couple days later, I finished the bottle. Well, I did and who ever else was drinking it with me. I still haven't discovered who that might have been.

Meanwhile, I'm in a pickle. I'd like to buy another bottle because it's still cool outside and it remains Scotch-drinking weather.

I'm not worried about me. I'm concerned about the other person who evidently does not realize that he is drinking more than he should. In deference to him, and whatever healthy choices he might not be making, I'm considering laying off.

Given how companionable and portable the Scotch is, it might be a pretty healthy thing to do.