September 4, 2019

Wednesday, Sept. 4

Often when we write, we rely on the visual. Because we are a visual culture, this only makes sense. But if we rely strictly on the visual in our writing, we ignore the possibilities inherent in smell, touch, sound, and taste. 

So this week, for our prompt, I ask you to work on smells.

A foul smell strikes us immediately, powerfully, appallingly. A nasty stink explodes through the air like a locomotive, searing into our sinuses and stampeding through our fragile sensory systems. 

As an example, just the other day I was standing by my bread drawer, the dog at my side, when a sickening smell struck me. I turned to the dog – always a suspect – and sniffed. No evidence. I opened the drawer under the sink, a dubious geographic location. None there either. I poured vinegar down the drain. I upended the toaster. 

I opened the bread drawer and ruffled through. The English muffins looked fresh and fluffy, their nooks and crannies poised to cuddle butter and Dondero Orchard’s peach jam. 

But they were hiding a secret.

Acrid, rotting, putrid, vile, rancid: each word efficiently portrayed the scent stunning sinuses around my kitchen corner. The smell of a dead mouse that might had scratched a hole in my house’s siding and crawled into the opening to expire? And what does a dead mouse smell like, if you’ve never smelled a dead mouse? The heavy scent of warm, wet, rapidly procreating mold, its fuzzy tentacles potentially growing on the floor of my sink cabinet? The cloyingly sweet odor of rotting bread, alcohol and sugar dancing into dark green rims on the crust?

I went back to the bread drawer. I yanked all residents out. And there they were. Potatoes, Mushy balls decomposing in the bag. They had died a gruesome black death in a hostile neighborhood, a once tough starch that time rendered timid, held hostage in a ghetto of muffins and bread.

Yes, yes, this week, write about smell. A description. A little story. A paragraph. Possibly a page. 

 As always, next Monday, when you have finished this prompt, share it with someone. If you are one of my workshop students, of course share it with me.