Different Ways of Killing Trilogy Part 2
That’s what you told me. You told me each smell came in a box and that I had to work hard to find the correct label; to put the correct label onto the right smell before the line moves on. Three seconds, you said. Three seconds to open the lid, place the receptacle to your nose and sniff, decide if it was X352 or X353, peel the tab and stick. Close the box with the left hand, you told me, while you smooth the label with your right and move on.
And so I am here, Claire, in your spot on the production line in the Manufactory of Smells.
“Where do they farm them, the smells, do you think?” you once asked me.
I was on the outside, so I might have known, but all I did was shrug my shoulders at your disappointment in my ability to be interested in your job. I was trying to punish you, Claire. Off you went, every morning down that tunnel dressed in white, in your white coat and your hair in a white net to sniff and label twelve hours a day. You told me you found it satisfying but now I’m here, Claire, I’m here in your place and it’s nothing but damn boring. Lift lid, sniff, choose label; twenty a minute, one thousand, two hundred an hour, fourteen thousand, four hundred a day. You left us, Claire, every day, me and Tom, whilst I struggled with bottles and nappies. You said you must go; you had to, you said, every day. You never saw us. Did you ever wonder why I shouted?
When you died, Claire, when you inhaled too much, you had just said you loved us. You said you wanted to quit the Manufactory of Smells and give us more of your time.
“Blow,” you said on the intercom, “We’ll get through somehow.” Then you picked up box X348 and you didn’t put it down. It took your head off. Filled your brains with fumes, killed you, where I am standing now in your place in the line and Tom’s at your mum’s. I see him at the weekend, Claire. He’s alright, crawling now, but he’s missing you. Although he’s so young he will have forgotten both of us by the end of the month.
Your manager was nice, Claire, so nice. She spoke to Mr Olfactory and explained and he offered me your job straight away, no messing. Even carried forward your leave entitlement, so I don’t miss out. So now I am here right where you used to stand twelve hours a day, right where you died.
There’s Mr Olfactory now, Claire. He is signalling me to come over to him. Should I Claire? Should I?
He doesn’t meet my eye, Mr Olfactory. He passes me a box.
“Here” he says, almost embarrassed. “That was your wife’s last sniff, before….before….”
“It’s what she smelled when she killed herself?” I say.
“Right, when she killed herself. I thought you might like to know what it was. You know, for you and your son.”
“Thanks, Mr Olfactory, much appreciated.” I am duly humble. I touch my forehead. I bow to receive the small, unlabelled box.
I am looking at you, Claire, I am looking at a picture of you and I want to understand. I am holding the receptacle I smuggled out the production line and now I am in the bunk-room and I wait until it is all quiet, until the production men stop sniffing and cursing and then I sniff .
It is Gardenias, Claire. The smell is Gardenia. They were in your bouquet, when we were married, weren’t they? You had them in your hair and tucked behind your ears and I breathe in the scent, in the putrid bunk room just as I breathed it in when you turned to face me in the registrar’s office on the second floor when you said you loved me. The Gardenias killed you, Claire.
I never liked them, Gardenias, but then you knew that, didn’t you?