City Smells


There’s an old song that say’s “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and when it came out a girl knew would sing it and it seemed to take forever for her to stop, but on my block, right now as I step outside my door I can smell the odors of this city forever, or so it would seem as any number of scents are drifting by on the wind.

On the far side of the street, Mrs. Johansen was sweeping the sidewalks and whether it was my imagination or not, I thought I could taste and smell the dust as it flew by, taking away with it the evidence that anyone had been there overnight and marking the start of the new day.

I stepped back as Mr. Rumshot walked by with his dog, he was a gruff man with no time for manners, and even my saintly mother was heard more than once to say “If anyone ever needed a shot of rum it’s THAT man!” and everyone would laugh but she was not kidding.

There were rumors he had a wife stored in that house somewhere too, but we never saw nor heard from her in all the time they had lived there.

On the radio, the weatherman said it might rain tonight or early afternoon, and I could definitely smell it, but the sky above was clear and bright and I felt it was going to be a beautiful morning if nothing else.

I heard a dog barking and looked to where Mr. Rumshot was walking and now he was holding his dog back, while another dog was approaching from the east side of the block and neither dog owner seemed to be ready to cross the street and give way.

It was the classic scene, I could almost hear the score from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” playing in the background as the two men sneered at each other.

I have heard it said that after a man and his dog spend a long time together they begin to look alike, and it was certainly true now, the dogs held almost the same sneer as they tried to get at each other.

I knew that Mr. Rumshot’s dog was a mean spirited dog, the kind what whined constantly to get out, and once let out wanted to immediately be let back in. It was not known to be fierce with other dogs but it had developed it’s owner’s disposition and bearing as well.

It seemed to be some sort of terrier mix, with coarse and wiry fur and short, stubby legs.

He looked to be the smaller dog there, as the other was a medium sized Lab mix, she was all black and pretty and seemed to think she was protecting her master as she moved in, hackles up and fangs bared and then covered in quick sequence. Her flanks moved with her strength as she tried to pull away from her master.

As the dogs crept ever so close together and both owners strained at the respective leashes and tried to pull their dogs away now that it was too late, though they both acted and felt tough, when it came down to their dogs they were afraid, both for the love and devotion they had put into the dogs, but also because they felt the dogs defended and carried their banner, their image and if they weren’t tough how tough could the owner be after all?

But in the end, it was neither dog nor owner that was tough, not one of them stepped up and saved the day except for Mrs. Sandoval, who was almost eighty three years young now, and spry as ever.

She was shouting at the men “to take their damn dogs out of here” and especially away from her front yard and beautiful garden. Of course, no one heard her nor paid her any attention as they were all shouting and barking now.

When the dogs began to bark furiously rising on their hind legs, snapping and clawing at each other to get a deep bite into, Mrs. Sandoval brought her hose to bear on the dogs, taking the fight out of the owners and the dogs all at once, it was a sight to see.

One minute, fur is flying and owners are cussing at each other for allowing this to happen, the next the men are screaming louder than the dogs who are now sitting inches apart, patiently waiting for their masters to take them to the park as if nothing happened.

I was going to that same park and could not believe my eyes when I saw those two dogs acting as if they were raised in the same litter, they played and climbed all over each other as only dogs can do.

The owners for their part were still growling at each other, each still blaming the other for them both being all wet.

As I got to the center of the park and left the dogs and their owners behind, I was feeling a little isolated, there seemed to be no one near as I walked, but then I heard the crack of a bat and the cheers go up as I neared the baseball diamonds, set back to back in this park of the park. If that wasn’t enough of an incentive to go there, I caught a whiff of the unmistakable

I looked to the left, the third base side of the field and the sun shown directly onto those bleachers and it was hard to see depending on the time of day and all, the other side was definitely jumping though, they had fans from both teams there I could see from here.

So I ordered a hot dog, and while I was waiting the smell coming off the barbeque, the sound and the briquettes were hit with the juices from those hot dogs and sizzled so invitingly that I ordered another.

I found a seat at the bottom of the bleachers and started to eat my hot dog when someone hit a fly ball that dropped down over the backstop and towards the crowd.

Since I was intent on eating that delicious hot dog and didn’t really have a vested interest in the game, I was not paying any attention until the ball hit the side of my face and then the fat guy that was behind me dived for the loose ball, cracking my neck in the process.

I never found out if he got it or not, because I woke up in the hospital. Of all the city smells I experienced that day, that was the worst.

Hospitals are where a lot of the people I know and have loved have died, and fair or not, it’s hard to disassociate one from the other.

I don’t know what else it might be, the odor of the antiseptic they use to kill bacteria, the smell that blood leaves behind long after it has caked and dried, but that, along with other smells a hospital carries make me want to get out of there, especially this time because they used one of those little ammonia capsules, breaking it under my nose, and that is one horrible way to be awakened.

The best part of the whole experience though is that the doctor gives me two days off work, starting on Monday, and this being Saturday means I have a nice long weekend, and the guy that fell on me pays the whole tab.

If it weren’t for the ache in my neck and soreness I know will start tomorrow I figure it’s not a bad deal.

I step out onto the street as quick as I can, telling them I will call my insurance about the bill but you know how that goes, another creditor in a long line of them trying to get into my pocket, some I deserved and some I didn’t, yet there they all are. I wish they were holding their breath.

Just across the street on one corner is the bus stop to go home where I know I will not rest cause it’s hard to, especially in the middle of the day. I just know I will spend my day playing games and eating, getting fat and building up my triglycerides.

The other corner bus goes to the beach, and as I am trying to decide which way to go, I notice a girl on that bench waiting for the bus, so it is a no-brainer, I’m going to the beach.

As I am thinking this, I see the bus coming around the corner, about a block and a half away, so I sprint across the middle of the street and almost ended back in the hospital, a car swerved to avoid hitting me at the last minute. It wasn’t that the car was that close that would have put me in the hospital though, the speed limit there is only ten miles an hour, it was the big guy behind the wheel, the one that was getting out and yelling obscenities at me now.

I turned just long enough to smile at him, knowing the bus would save me and then started running again.

I got to the bus just as he was getting back into his car, hoping he wouldn’t have the time to follow me, I turned back and saw him flip me off as he turned away.

The girl was just to my right now, and asked “What was that about?” as she stepped past me and got onto the bus.

Now, I hate the smell of exhaust normally, and especially the smell of diesel exhaust, it always makes me want to puke and it’s all over the city these days anyway, but this time I loved it, that smell meant I was going to be able to talk to her all the way to the beach.

I watched her as she climbed the steps of the bus and then showed the driver her bus card. She was wearing a bikini underneath this cover up she had wrapped around her waist.

She had everything else neatly tucked into this back straw bag that she hung from her shoulder, I could see a towel and a mat in there and probably some water beneath that.

She reached in and took out her suntan lotion and started to spread it over her legs as she sat in the last row of the bus.

I like the smell of suntan lotion, the one she was using had aloe in it for sun screen and all, but it also had some coconut oil and that smell pervaded everything else, it brought back so many memories of the beach all at once.

We talked about the beach and things we did in our lives all the way down there, but when we got there she was met by her boyfriend and I never saw her again.

It was all right, there are plenty of fish in the sea as my father once said. I had to laugh remembering him saying, “Mijo, beautiful women are like buses. There’s another one every half hour!” and he would laugh, but to me there is nothing in the world that smells so nice and huggable as a woman so I never understood what he meant

So I got off the bus, walked to the shore and sat down and for the rest of the day and maybe the rest of the weekend I was going to take in that part of the city smells. The ocean breezes that swept past me, the smell of barbeque that was going on all around me now. The sea salt that was everywhere and beneath that the smell of the sea weed as it dried on the shoreline.

justwrite   justwrite wrote
on 4/29/2008 11:34:41 AM
Very nice smellology. HaHa! Don't think that's a word. I like to make words up. A nice slice of a lazy afternoon in the city. I particularly liked the stand-off between the dogs and their owners. Very good descriptions. A few minor mistakes a good edit can fix. I really enjoyed this story. Good Job! Keep on Writing!

Bluez   Bluez wrote
on 4/10/2008 10:03:51 PM
I love the waves, the sounds, I grew up body surfing in Hungtington...thanks for the good thoughts!

Short Story
writing Bluez
wanna be writer
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Rating: 10.0/10

This is a short story I wrote for a contest that I never entered because as I was looking for "how to" I found my publisher for my first book.
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I love writing and this place is awesome! You all have such good stories to share.