As promised, here’s a bit of free webfiction for your Wednesday evening. It’s a story I wrote a few years back that unfortunately never found a home, due to being particularly short, strange and difficult to categorize. I suppose it’s technically absurdist humor or magical realism or some other such two word phrase, but I’ll be blasted if I know for sure.
Of course, one of the wonders of digital distribution is that it allows us to experiment with those odd little pieces that were too short and too strange for print. And that, I think, is a little magical in and of itself.
Maintenant, je vous présente…
The Shocking Death of Some Guy Named Bill
When Bill awoke the morning of Saturday the 14th, he smelled fantastic. Now, it wasn’t unusual for him to smell some combination of manly, musky, pleasant, fresh and just plain good, especially after a hot shower and liberal application of various gels, sprays, colognes and deodorants. This, however, was different and completely without precedent. As he would soon discover, his entire body smelled terrific.
With the grogginess of a bear just risen from a winter-long hibernation, Bill pawed at his sheets and then rolled right off his bed, accelerating and then more rapidly decelerating as he crashed to the floor. The pain was significant, but before he could summon his usual string of cuss words or even a wounded bark, he caught whiff of it. He smelled that smell that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
At first, he wasn’t quite sure where it was coming from. “Obviously,” he said to himself, “that can’t be me.”
No, not that smell. Not the one that somehow reminded him of roses, peaches, and fresh picked strawberries all at once. “It must be the neighbor’s breakfast,” he reasoned aloud.
A quick glance at the firmly latched window killed that idea dead in its tracks. Where else could the smell be coming from then? The one that made him crave a hot cup of coffee and cheese blintz smothered in maple syrup. He was immediately obsessed. He had to know, and so he crawled about on all fours, sniffing after the source of that wondrous scent.
Was it the half-eaten, day old pizza in the middle of the floor? Not that, he discovered. Perhaps the fish bowl so long bereft of fish? Not that either. Then could it be the fifth of a fifth of bourbon, left unfinished beside his alarm clock? Certainly not that. He didn’t even check the hastily discarded socks half hidden beneath his bed, for fear that they might actually be the source. Such a thing would surely call into question the existence of God.
That was when Bill finally discovered where the delectable aroma was coming from, which for some baffling reason recalled images of a forest just after a rain. He slowly lifted his right arm into the air, the hand left dangling limp at its end, and then he cautiously… fearfully… jittering, as if barely able to contain his own terror… lowered his head into his armpit and inhaled.
Bill discovered, with no small amount of shock and wonder, that the source of the smell was Bill. To say that this confounded him would be an understatement. Typically, his odor in the morning was a heady mixture of garlic and Jack Daniel’s. On some more rare occasions, his armpits smelled as if they contained the hacked apart and rotting armpits of legions of other, smellier men. Not this morning, however. In fact, Bill smelled so mouthwateringly splendid that it took considerable effort not to devour himself right there on the spot.
He didn’t waste any effort wondering why he smelled like the crossing of freshly baked bread and a bouquet of hand-picked jasmine. Whether magic, miracle or freak accident, he knew only that he had to make the best of it, and God alone knew how long the parfum would persist. With that in mind, he scurried into whichever clothes might least mask his scent and then took to the streets.
For just a brief moment, Bill lamented that he didn’t have some romantic rendezvous scheduled for this particular day, but he suspected his odor was so delicious that any number of lovely young ladies would pounce him like a pack of wild cats. All he had to do was wander through his daily routine, and fate would provide for him.
He stopped first at the bank, where he waited patiently in line to deposit his weekly pay check. He smirked in satisfaction while the other patrons sniffed at the wind, and with a growing air of confidence about him (pun intended), he advanced to the counter of a particularly fetching young cashieress and produced both deposit slip and check.
The young lady coyly tucked a loose strand of raven hair behind her ear while Bill produced his paperwork, and smiling warmly she said, “Good afternoon. How may I… My… what is that wonderful smell?”
Feigning ignorance, Bill looked up in dismay. “Why, what smell do you mean?”
“You don’t smell it?” She asked, followed by a deep inhalation. “Like walnuts, and apricots… And lemons?”
Bill merely shrugged, burying his head deep between his shoulders. Then, as if she were lost in a dream, the cashier closed her eyes, slowly leaned across the counter and, much to Bill’s surprise, licked his cheek. When the flavor failed to match the smell, her eyes shot open like spring loaded shades, she hid her blushing face behind her hand, and promptly disappeared into the belly of the bank.
The rest of Bill’s day was much the same. As he walked through the super-market, people spoke of the mangoes and papayas and hamburgers and steaks they thought they smelled pass by. They laughed and cried as they remembered the favorite scents of their long forgotten childhoods, and some voraciously sank their teeth into whatever produce was at hand.
It was, Bill thought, the most magical day that ever was. He had been transformed from some faceless nobody into a walking fountain of odiferous joy, reinvigorating the interest and passion of everyone he passed. The sun was brighter, the sky was bluer, and everything was right in the world.
This was why Bill had such a massive smile on his face as he walked through the park the afternoon of Saturday the 14th, and also why he utterly failed to notice the creature that emerged from the nearby treeline, which then proceeded to pounce on him, tear him limb from limb and devour him to the last scrap. Most of the onlookers later reported that the creature was an escaped orangutan, but two strange and wholly unrelated witnesses would each tell their friends and loved ones that it was a caveman.