writing exercise #14

The prompt of this exercise was smell. For me, the particular smell of lemongrass cleaner. Here’s where it went:

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Sherry knocked back the last of her vodka soda, exhaled, pulled the tea towel from the stove rack and tossed it on the spreading puddle. She then reached under the sink, pushed aside the pile of grocery bags and dug around among the various cleaning supplies until she found the spray bottle of lemongrass cleaner. The plastic bottle announced, in bright orange letters, “ORGANIC! NONTOXIC!” Sherry eyed the mess, set the cleaner on the counter, tilted the bottle of vodka over her glass and watched the clear liquid rise over the ice. This time, she skipped the soda.

“All right, then,” she announced to no one except the dog, her dear old black lab huddling in the corner. “It’s OK, honey,” Sherry crooned. “It’s not your fault.” Mackie lifted her head, eyes cloudy, face sweet. Sherry sipped her vodka. Set it down. Dropped to her knees. With her left hand, she wiped up the puddle. With her right, she sprayed the spot down with the lemongrass cleaner. Standing again, she strode to the laundry room, threw the towel into the empty washer, grabbed a rag from the rag pile.

Back in the kitchen, Sherry sipped her vodka. Sipped it some more. Refilled it, figuring why let it run out when she’d be making another drink anyway. She tossed the rag on the floor, used her foot to move it over the spot, spreading and absorbing the cleaner. The scent of lemongrass reached her.

Lemongrass, she remembered from her herbal classes, is native to India and tropical Asia. In addition to its culinary properties – wonderful in soup – herbalists believe it has antifungal properties. Not that Sherry worried about fungus. But she didn’t want the floor to smell like dog piss. She didn’t want her house to smell like dog piss. Finding a worthy man to have over proved challenge enough. Bringing one through the door only to have him wrinkle his nose at the smell of dog piss was not something she wanted to deal with. “Sorry, honey,” she told Mackie.

It wasn’t fair, Sherry mused. Mackie had been more faithful, more comforting and the provider of more joy than any guy who’d entered her life. So her bladder failed her from time to time. She was 14, for chrissakes. As the vodka seeped into her bloodstream, Sherry felt the warmth of sentimentality consume her. She lowered herself to the floor again, this time next to Mackie.

“Sweet baby,” she whispered, stretching her arms around Mackie, who wagged her tail and licked Sherry’s cheek. Sherry reached behind Mackie’s ears, scratched and hugged Mackie close. Her eyes watered. “Damn it,” she muttered. She didn’t want to lose Mackie, didn’t want to have to decide to have her put down. “Put down” – what an ignoble fate. She closed her eyes and lay back on the dog bed, Mackie stretched out beside her. “Dog hair,” she thought, imagining how utterly cloaked in shed black strands she’d be when she stood up.

She pushed the thought aside. Or rather, tried to. She was wearing her favorite white button-up shirt after all, the one she tried to wash as little as possible to extend its life. The one Clark had bought for her because she kept stealing his, thrilled to have a boyfriend whose clothes she could “borrow.” Ultimately, the novelty of fitting into his shirts, his sweaters, his jeans wore off – his shortness in stature made his clothes ideal, but his personality insufferable. No more short men, she swore. But she still loved the shirt. Not as much as Mackie, but enough to think twice about letting it get covered in short black dog hairs.

Sherry stood up. Reached down to scritch Mackie’s belly. Mackie turned her head just enough to look at her. How much she could see, Sherry was unsure. But those dark eyes had seen so much over the years. The good boyfriends and the bad. No one else knew Sherry so well, yet remained so purely refrained from judgment. Her eyes filled again. She sobbed once, twice, then regained her grip upon her emotions. A long breath and she was back in the kitchen, adding ice to her glass, pouring another couple fingers’ worth of vodka.

Maybe I should date a vet, she thought. She looked at the dwindled supply of vodka. Maybe I should date a vet who likes to drink. The thought of dating sent a wave of fatigue through her body. She leaned on the counter, felt herself slide down to the floor, her glass slipping from her fingers, not breaking, but bouncing against the tile, rolling over sideways, ice clinking out against the red squares. Mackie started at the noise, trotted into the kitchen, nosed into Sherry’s side. “It’s OK, baby,” she said. “It’s OK.”

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