Fragrant Flashbacks by
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Fragrant Flashbacks






I was in my teens—so many things I didn’t understand. So many aspects of life that I did because I thought I should or I did because I was compelled. And I was too close to myself for perspective, so all I could do was respond to stimuli.

I didn’t know why I was so drawn to the scent, so repelled, yet attracted. The middle finger of my right hand wafted aromatic magic. I didn’t wash it for days, kept it under my nose. My first drug. I’d sniff, pull back and try to place what it was that seemed so familiar. I couldn’t identify it, so I’d sniff again. What kept me on the repetitive loop?

One small cluster of neurons knew; that place where my spine grows from my brain like a root. There, in my primitive brain; that part of me knew. She smelled like leaf mold in the Miocene.





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Characterizations: been there


  1. Wow, a teenage guy with a primordial sense of smell!

    Welcome – or welcome back – to Retrospect, Richard!

  2. I’m just glad you post stories here.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Interesting take on the topic of smell. Not so fragrant but unique and evocative,

  4. Suzy says:

    Very subtle, Richard, I had to read it a couple of times before I was sure what you were talking about. Guess if John hadn’t used it first, you could have called your story Scent of a Woman.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Well, Richard, you went “there” (metaphorically speaking, of course). You are a braver writer than I am.

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    I guess this prompt got you thinking back to a certain scent from a long time ago. Your essay made me think of a British Invasion song by the Kinks: “Girl, you really got me going, you got me so I can’t sleep at night!” Same impulse, I think.

  7. John Zussman says:

    What a sly, evocative story. I too remember that mystery, that wonder. Leaf mold in the Miocene indeed.

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