The Smell of Dark

Photo Credit: cbs8.com

Photo Credit: cbs8.com

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. 

4622 Castle Crest Drive

Photo Credit: jeunited.comI found an actual photo of the house my grandfather built on Google! I lived there till age 7.

Photo Credit: jeunited.com
I found an actual photo of the house my grandfather built on Google! I lived there till age 7.

4622 Castle Crest Drive–dVerse Open Link Night and Meeting the Bar

She rules—pristine white, glorious
as a crown on the skull of the hill.
Alone, inviolate. The stuff of which
childhood myths are made.

And I wove those stories, weave them still,
envisioning dry days of California summer,
days steeped, like my first glass of iced tea,
in sunshine, scrub brush, and scents of citrus.

Geranium blooms, red and slightly pungent
grow wild among yuccas that, most years, burst
into white blossoms on March 19th, St. Joseph’s day.
Predictable as the swallows coming home.

Eucalyptus trees surround my fortress,
stanchions holding the house and our lives
erect, until the day the fires trundle up
the ridge, and they erupt in rapture.

The room where I wake—beneath the crest—
Is the home of an almost-stranger—a man
who wears a sheet each year on Halloween as
Grandpa takes me door-to-door in his neighborhood

that cradles the base of my princess-world.
It’s different now, sixty-some years later. They’re
dead, the ghost and my dreams of royalty.
And someone painted my castle black.

I’m linking this to both dVerse Open Link Night and the Meeting the Bar I will be hosting this Thursday, February 7th. While dealing with computer issues and upgrades, I’ve made the difficult decision to cut back on the number of posts I do each week, as my priority right now is to get my second novel and a book of poetry out to agents. I will continue to be hanging around the Pub, but will post any prompt I respond to on OLN.

Here’s a hint for Thursday…dig back into those childhood memories and savor the details.