The red, patterned carpet on the short flight of stairs leading down to the front door isn’t as worn here as it is in other places in the house. The sun coming through the glass door warms the entry way. The gray slate floor of the landing releases a warm, vaguely wet smell. I crouch down on the middle stair, hiding from those up on the main floor. Dust fills my nose as I watch the legs of aunts and uncles move from the kitchen to the dinning room, readying the table.
My sister reaches down through the black wrought iron bars of the handrail and pokes me. The quick movement of my head brings the smell of dry leaves—earthy remnants of an earlier walk in a neighbor’s woods. I growl at her, thrusting my face up against the bars. As I inhale quickly to snarl at her again, the hard, metal tang of iron collects at the back of my throat.
The smokey smell of turkey, which has lingered about the house as it cooked throughout the day, intensifies as the bird is carved. Someone corrals young and old into the dinning room. The room gets close as warm bodies settle and crowd around around the table.
Later. A game of cards around the same table extends far into the night. I practice shuffling the deck, the waxy smell of the coated cards puffs into my face with each successfully executed bridge.
I nuzzle into faintly floral-smelling sheets and blanket, no longer able to keep awake enough to whisper to my sister in the dark.
Written for the writing prompt, Focusing on Sense of Smell.
Copyright © 2011 Jennifer A. Liss
One reply on “Dry leaves. Dust. Sunshine.”
Okay, so you told me in person that you didn’t feel like you’d done that well with the smell part of this, but I really feel like you have. The descriptions of the smells are brief but evocative, and they really help the event you’re describing come to life for me. The last couple of paragraphs are a little disjointed from the rest of it, but I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing–the whole thing has a dreamy, slightly out of focus feel (which I like), and the time shifts sort of fit into that.
It *is* a little hard for me to picture the setting outside of an olfactory context sometimes–especially at the beginning, where it seems like you’re inside (talking about people on the “main level”, the red carpet), but slate floors and wrought iron railings are things I more normally associate with outdoors. It’s possible it’s just plain a quirk of the place you’re describing, but it’s something I found a little difficult as I was reading.
But then I also know you said it was written more for yourself than others, so… Maybe it doesn’t matter as long as it calls that place to mind for you. 🙂