The Smell of Dark

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Flash Fiction—307 Words

Some memories are impossible to erase, no matter how often as I hit the delete key. They say it’s emotion that embeds them in the brain. No doubt—but smells do, too.

I tell Teddy, my bear, “It’s a funny time of the day to be so dark, isn’t it?” I think he nodded as he watched me shuffle the Old Maid cards, but it could have been that he just knew he was going to lose again.

We listen to voices behind the closed door—Grandpa barking orders. Fear seeped under that crack beneath the door—fear, and the smell of smoke. I grabbed Teddy, held him tight and told him, “Don’t be scared.”

I can’t say I remember what happened next. I woke up in a dark room that didn’t smell like Grandma’s rose perfume. The venetian blinds are closed as tight as they can be and I’m too short to reach them to peek out. The old blue blanket from Mama’s rocking chair is wrapped around me and I set about the task of picking off the little balls of fuzz that come from too many rides in the Bendix. Teddy watches, but he doesn’t help.

A screen door slams and I recognize Grandpa’s sure footstep and the scent of the Chesterfield cigarette that almost always hangs from the side of his mouth. The door of this strange room swings open and he fills the frame then crosses over to me and whisks me up into his arms and hugs me tight.

We climb back up the hill—our hill—Grandpa’s long strides, me riding on his shoulders like a princess.

We might have sung our hiking song but for the blackened land there where the wild flowers used to grow. And for the tear that risked a fall into the crevice of Grandpa’s cheek.

My first whirl for Sunday Whirl. I chose a vague memory from childhood. My mom and I spent a few years in my grandparents’ home in a (then) rural area of Los Angeles, in the foothills. Brush fires happened almost every summer. This particular year, all I remember was waking up in a neighbor’s home at the foot of the hill. The rest of the details are fictional. For those of you who are younger than I (most of you, no doubt) the Bendix is a brand of washing machine that had a wringer. 

12 thoughts on “The Smell of Dark

  1. Scents can bring us back to places we didn’t think we could recall.
    A very engrossing write, Victoria. I enjoyed it thoroughly.


  2. Pamela says:

    Victoria, this is wonderful prose writing. You bring the child to life with ease. I am so happy to see you over at the whirl with us.



  3. Manu Kurup says:



  4. The Real Cie says:

    My paternal grandmother’s house smelled like moth balls. She put them in everything. I had never smelled moth balls before the first time I visited and it seemed overwhelming. I actually came to like the smell as time went on.


    • Thanks for the valuable article on your blog about copyright issues. Very scary. One wants to trust one’s fellow authors and bloggers. (I couldn’t find a place to comment on your blog)


  5. scillagrace says:

    Love the feeling of impressionistic writing here, but I was not sure, until reading your commentary, about the sequence and place of these events. I somehow first understood Grandpa’s house as being strange and didn’t imagine a neighbor’s house at all. I read it again after knowing that bit, and everything fell into place. Don’t know if that’s helpful. I only saw my grandparents once a year or less as a child, so perhaps the feeling of belonging there didn’t occur to me.


  6. Memories of home have been bastardized by time and distance. This brought me closer to home than you’ll know. It is wonderful, and I appreciate this very much, Victoria!


  7. Jamie Dedes says:

    Truly feels like perception through the eyes of a child. Nicely done, Victoria. 🙂


  8. brenda w says:

    This is nostalgic and beautiful. You develop a wonderful sense of place from a child’s eye. Grandpa was my most important person. Thank you for whirling with us. This story is a gem.


  9. heidi says:

    I love the detail and imagery in this story. It is vivid and beautiful.


  10. Mary says:

    We had a Bendix that did NOT have a wringer. It was a front loader. I remember when my parents got it. How proud they were. My dad and mom and an uncle and an aunt took chairs down the basement and sat in front of it watching its ‘miraculous’ washing!! (That meant no more wringer washer!!) How simple a thing gave such pleasure.


  11. Rhonda says:

    Loved this Victoria. Great little details.


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