wednesday prompt



“Oh, Dusty! Stop doing that!” screamed Simi as she pushed him off her. Not one to be pushed away, Dusty persisted again. “Dusty, stop it, or I’ll throw you out this very instant!” said Simi, her voice now raising to the levels of a shriek. “Take it easy, will you? He’s just happy you’re back from your long trip!” chided Jai as he plonked on the couch to read the paper. Dusty walked up towards Jai and placed his head on Jai’s lap. Giving Dusty a slight rub behind his ear, Jai went back to newspaper.  Content with the tickle, Dusty, the Golden Retriever, settled down by Jai’s feet. Image courtesy - Wikimedia Common

“You encourage him to be over-friendly!” berated Simi as she got up the sofa and started walking away. “That statement shows that you don’t know a thing about dogs. Especially Dusty. He loves to be petted and he likes it when we take him out. But how would you know? You’ve been taught to look at dogs suspiciously” said Jai, his voice now raising. It angered him to no extend when Simi complained about his attachment to the dog. She’d never been completely game to opening their house to Dusty. But Jai had insisted. And now their 18 month-old toddler Sahil loved Dusty too. The three of them, Dusty, Sahil and Jai, often went for long walks when time permitted. Both of them especially loved the beach. Jai didn’t know what it was, but both Sahil and Dusty loved running along the beach. Though barely able to walk without falling down, Sahil loved to chase Dusty around. And from what he’d seen, Dusty loved it too. His wife, Simi, was a financial consultant and often away on business a lot. He was a musician, and hence had his studio set up at home. He enjoyed working from home, since it allowed him to spend more time with both Sahil and Dusty. And even though it had cost them a lot, they’d bought an apartment in the same block of flats as where Simi’s parents lived. Which meant someone was always around to look after Sahil. Dusty was another story though. Just like Simi, her parents were not that fond of Dusty either. Jai put his paper away and looked at Dusty, who was now tickling Sahil by trying to playfully gnaw at his feet. He heard Simi out in the balcony on her phone. “Probably helping some poor old sod pay less tax!” he thought. He looked at the time. It was 3 p.m. on Saturday. He got up from the couch and went out to the balcony. Simi was just finishing up her call. “ I’m going for a shower. Get yourself and Sahil ready. We’re going to the beach.” he said. “How come?” asked Simi, throwing her hair back. The action briefly took him back to when he’d first laid eyes on her at a wedding. He smiled and said “Because I want to. And Dusty could do with a long free run. He’s been cooped up at the apartment for the past couple of days”. “Oh, he’s coming too, is he? Well, fine.” said Simi as she walked back into the flat.

An hour later,

“Sahil, can you please get your shoes?” asked Jai as he slipped on his loafers. Though Sahil was very much still in the babbling stages, he could understand simple words, one of which was shoes. As he switched off the television, he noticed Sahil come over to him with something orange in his hand. As Jai held his hand out, Sahil dropped what he was holding. It was single orange shoe with an off-white add-on running vertically through the centre. Jai smiled and picked up Sahil so he could put the shoe for him. Once he did so, he looked at Sahil and asked “Where’s the other one?”. Sahil just stared at him with a blank look on his face. Jai slowly repeated the question “Sahil…..Where……is ……  the…..other….shoe?”. Sahil continued to look at him expressionless, which convinced Jai that he did not understand. Sighing, he placed Sahil on the couch and walked up to the shoe rack to find the other pair. After a few minutes of searching for the other pair, not just in the shoe rack, but in most of Sahil’s preferred “treasure-hiding spots”, Jai decided to go with another pair.

Jai took Sahil, placed him on his lap and attempted to remove the shoes. But Sahil had other plans. No matter how hard Jai tried, Sahil screamed and cried, every time Jai tried to unbuckle his lone shoe. Frustrated, Jai called out to Simi, to enquire if she’d seen the other shoe. Simi, who was in the middle of getting dressed, just shouted back saying she didn’t know where it was and maybe he should call up her parents and ask, since he was with them the whole of the previous day. After a quick phone call to his in-laws which failed to yield any further information about the whereabouts of the lone shoe, Jai looked back at Sahil, who was still sitting on the couch with the single orange shoe still on his foot. “Kids” thought Jai “Somedays, when they’ve made up their mind, they just don’t budge. Now where could this shoe be?”

As he stood there wondering what to do,he felt something tug at his jeans. He looked down and noticed Dusty was eagerly pulling at his legs as if wanting to show something. “Not now Dusty. We’re going out in a bit. I know you’re impatient to go, but I need to find this shoe” he said to Dusty. “What am I doing? It’s not like he understands my problem!” thought Jai trying to shake Dusty off his leg. But Dusty refused to let go. At  5 years, Dusty was almost grown up by dog standards. Standing at about 20 inches tall and weighing close to 60lbs, Dusty was strong. Jai, who was quite scrawny, found it difficult to withstand Dusty’s strength and was dragged towards the main door. “Fine, I’ll take you for a walk. But only for one round around the complex, ok?” he said sternly to Dusty, who had now left Jai’s jeans and was excitedly jumping around and scratching the front door. “Simi !” yelled Jai, over the noise of her hair dryer “I’m taking Dusty for a quick walk. Can you please watch Sahil for about 15 minutes?”. “You are what?” he heard Simi holler. And then there was silence as the hair dryer was switched off and Simi walked into the hall. “I’m taking Dusty for a quick walk. He needs to …umm….pee” lied Jai, hoping Simi wouldn’t overreact. “Fine! Leave Sahil here though. He’s all dressed up. I don’t want him to play in the mud again. But where is his other shoe?” asked Simi.

Jai sighed. He’d spent the last thirty minutes hunting for the shoe and he had just told Simi a little while ago that he couldn’t find it. And yet here she was, asking where the other shoe was. Somedays, she really needed to work on her listening skills. “I don’t know. And Sahil won’t let me remove this shoe and put on a different pair of shoes. I’ve tried and I’m giving up. You can give it a go” said Jai as he walked out of the door with Dusty on a leash. Pretending he didn’t hear Simi’s sarcastic comment, Jai shut the door noisily behind him and smiled. “I’d like to see her try to get Sahil to wear another pair of shoes!” he smirked as he got into the lift with Dusty.

Once they were in the play area of the complex, Jai took the leash off Dusty. “Go, finish your business and come back soon!” he said, as he sat down on one of the seats. To his surprise, Dusty just stood there, refusing to budge. “What, you don’t want me to sit now?” asked Jai as he got up from the seat. Slowly Dusty started walking, and Jai followed. It seemed random at first, but then Jai noticed that Dusty was purposefully walking towards the children’s play area. Wondering where Dusty was taking him, Jai continued to follow him. A few minutes later, Dusty stopped near wall that enclosed the children’s play area. He walked up to the wall, and looked at Dusty confused. Suddenly Dusty placed his front paws on the wall and tried to stand up on his hind legs, as if trying to scale the wall. Jai stood there confused. Was there something on the other side of the wall? he wondered. At 6’2”, Jai was much taller than the wall, and managed to peer over the wall. At first all he could see was the rather steep drop to the cemented bottom of the complex. As he was about to turn back, something caught his eye and he looked again. Down  there, on the cemented floor, lay the missing orange shoe.

Image - Vidya Sury


This fictional story is based on the picture prompt provided for Write Tribe's Wednesday Prompt. The picture has been kindly provided by Vidya Sury

Paper Scent

David squirmed at the dishevelled aged man across the counter, who was now close enough for him to smell the strong scent of rum that wafted of off his body. The pensioner looked like he hadn’t showered in days, much less brushed his teeth in decades. His teeth were a deep yellow coated with tar stains, probably from years of tobacco addiction. His hair was long and unkempt, almost fully grey, with a few odd brown streaks in there. He also looked like he hadn’t had a shave in weeks, and his bushy beard was coated with left overs of whatever he had probably had for breakfast - pieces of bacon, by the looks of it. The only somewhat distinguishing part of the old man was a pair of gold-rimmed half-moon spectacles, through which his bright, somewhat-boyish, blue eyes peered out.

As the store manager for one of the largest beauty and cosmetic retailers in Britain, David Smith, was accustomed to dealing with difficult customers. The only people he hated dealing with, were the “homeless and poor” who occasionally visited the store in the hope of getting a free sample of a promotional product that they were giving away. Even then, David was extremely careful as to who he let into the store. After all, his store was the biggest and most popular one of the chain, and located on one of London’s premier shopping avenues. Further more, their normal clientele were the who’s who of Hollywood and other high-society kinds, who surely would not take “the homeless and beggars milling about” the store lightly.

With a deep sigh, David cleared his throat. His security chap at the door usually did a splendid job of keeping “these kinds” at bay. But he was running a bit late today, due to the customary delays on the London Underground. And it was just five minutes past 10, when this raggedly old man had walked in. Keeping with the norm, David was behind the counter ensuring that there was enough money in the till to begin trade for the day. “ I’m afraid, I’m going to have to ask you to leave” commenced David, sticking to his well-practiced speech for getting rid of “these lot”.
The old man stared at him for what felt like the best part of five minutes. And then he spoke. “Is that how you treat customers these days, son?” enquired the old man. David was taken aback by the polished accent that accompanied the statement and the accurate enunciation of each word. Suddenly David wasn’t so sure how to respond anymore. Though this old man’s appearance was un-sightly and down-right dirty, his deep baritone and proper articulation was a shocker. “Sir….I…mmm….I…” mumbled David, unable to conceal his surprise. The old man smiled. “I understand your …well…concern. I know I don’t look the part of your usual clientele. Unfortunately I don’t clean up well. Which is why I’m here first thing in the morning, before your business picks up. I’m here to talk about this”, he said dropping a leaflet, that David was familiar with.
A couple of weeks ago, the parent chain had organised a “What do you want to smell like?” promotion, where customers could walk into any of their 200 odd- outlets and experiment with a variety of essences and scents till they got  what they liked. And then once they co-created it, they had to purchase it in either 50, 75 or 100ml bottles. The catch was that the potential client had to put down a £500 deposit, and there was no refund. In spite of the high initial costs, it had been a huge success, but the thought of some of those really questionable scents, still made David nauseate. But it was hugely profitable for the company, and for David’s store in particular. The purchase costs of these “co-created perfumes” were really high and the investment in terms of resources was quite minimum. To make matters more interesting, the company had even put out a challenge - they could re-create any scent. If they couldn’t, they’d not only refund the £500, but they would offer a year’s supply of cosmetic and beauty care products from one of the most reputed brands in the world.
The leaflet that the old man had shoved in front of David was one of the few hundreds that they had personally snail mailed to the who’s who of society. He picked up the leaflet and looked at the name on the affixed label - John Gardiner. Somewhere in David’s head, the name rang a bell, but he wasn’t quite sure where he’d come across it. He excused himself from the old man, and went to a nearby computer set up with Internet access. He brought up the Google home page, and typed in John Gardiner into the search box. And then he smiled. The picture that accompanied the Wikipedia entry for John Gardiner was an identical copy of the person who was standing across the counter from him. He read a bit more of the article, and discovered that John Gardiner was a hugely successful author who had over 20 best-sellers over the 40 decades he had been writing. It also added that recently, Mr. Gardiner had been undergoing treatment for some clinical depression as well as some psychiatric treatment. Apparently he’d been having visions of a world where everything was electronic and there were no more physical books. It even said that Mr. Gardiner had supposedly buried a time capsule somewhere in his garden with collector’s editions of various famous paperbacks, so that future generations could understand how it was to touch, feel and read a real physical book.
David smiled again. Looked like Mr. Gardiner was going cuckoo. Nevertheless the Wikipedia entry said he had a lot of wealth, which meant a sale for David. That’s all that mattered. So he was going to indulge Mr. Gardiner, for the sake of a good sale. David walked back to the counter and said “Ofcourse, Mr. Gardiner. What can I do for you?" “I’d like to have  go at this” replied old man John pointing at the leaflet. “Here’s your cheque for £500”. Mouthing a thank you, David grinned as he picked up the cheque from Mr. Gardiner’s frail hands. He slowly walked Mr.Gardiner over to their make-shift “Essence Lab” where the perfuming process was being tested.
After going through some basics of perfuming and how they were created, David turned around and looked at Mr. Gardiner. So Mr. Gardiner, did you have an idea about what kind of scent you wanted your perfume to have ? Maybe lavender, rose, musk wood ….something a bit more fruity, like orange, or lemons….?”. John Gardiner looked at David, and then burst out with a wide grin. “I was thinking you’d never ask” he said. He slowly slid his hand into the tattered trench coat the he was wearing. For a minute David panicked. What if this crazy old man was pulling out a weapon. As the old man withdrew his hand form the coat, David noticed that he was clutching some books. From the looks of it, they were really old ,and pretty much in the same shape as their owner - raggedy and tattered with yellowing pages. Mr. Gardiner clutched the books really tightly and thrust them in David’s face. “Smell them!” he ordered, his previously blue eyes, now greyish blue with steely determination. David took a whiff. It smelled musty, with an odd faint hint of vanilla. He took another whiff, a deeper one this time around. This time he smelled something completely different ; he could smell “petrichor”, (the smell when fresh rain mixed with dry earth or dust) and dry wood. Looking confused, David asked “What is that smell? I’m not able to identify it precisely.” Mr. Gardiner looked at David with a really blissful smile and said “That my son, is the best smell in the world; the smell that I fear our future generations may not be able to even sample; the smell that has inspired and motivated me to write for over 40 long decades - that, my son, is the wonderful smell of old books, and I intend to capture and stock it for our generations to come."
Image courtesy Google Search and HD Wallpapers
Image courtesy Google Search and HD Wallpapers

 A few un-successful hours later....

David folded his hands and watched Mr. John Gardiner, the esteemed author of over 20 best-sellers, walk out of the door, with his original cheque of £500 and a box full of cosmetic and beauty products for a whole year. "Well, at least he'll scrub up well now" mused David as he watched the door close.


This post was compiled for WriteTribe's Wednesday prompt - The Best Scent, where the prompt was " the smell of old books".