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Day 18- Follow the Scent! by Robin Stein

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Follow the scent and uses your senses in today's prompt from Robin Stein

The Prompt

The aroma of coffee brewing, the minty scent of your grandfather’s aftershave or the salty smell of the beach.

What are the smells of your childhood? List three that pop into your head.

Start your story with one of them.

Maybe your character has a flashback when she smells something.

Or, the scent can be used as evidence in a crime.

Perhaps an unfamiliar perfume will reveal someone’s infidelity.

Make sure to use all five senses as you follow the scent to reveal your story.

See where your nose takes you!


Robin Stein

Robin Stein muses, meditates and creates in Newtonville, MA. Her work has been displayed on the Martin Poetry Path and in the Story Dispenser at Wellesley Free Library. Her book, My Two Cities: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration, has been featured at many schools. She enjoys crafting crosswords, walking in nature and playing piano. You can read more at robinsteincreative.com.

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19 thoughts on “Day 18- Follow the Scent! by Robin Stein”

  1. Thank you, Robin. I wrote about a great memory I have of my grandmother in Germany. Her favorite cologne was called 4711. I couldn’t remember how it smelled but I knew I had recently seen a bottle in my “catch all” container. I found three tiny bottles. The scent brought back even more memories of my “Oma”.

  2. A tiny story, quickly written.

    The fruity woodsy scent of pipe tobacco tickled my nose. I hadn’t smell pipe smoke since my grandfather passed, years ago. I glanced around, hoping to catch sight of the smoker. Ah, but the sun glinted off of the windows of the bus stop, temporarily blinding me. As a city dweller, I easily dismissed the constant rush of traffic, and basked in the early spring warmth of the morning sun. It was a good day, I thought, sipping the rich tang of my herbal tea.
    A man sat down next to me. I nodded, he nodded, and we waited together for the bus, enjoying a fine day. He palmed his pipe and thumped the bowl against the bottom of his shoe. He examined it, glanced down the hill at the bus, and tucked it away in his pocket. The bus roared in a cloud of acrid exhaust, struggling up the hill to sidle into the space before us, brakes squeaking.

  3. Sandy’s mother loved her coffee. Strong, plain coffee, no cream or sugar. Although Sandy didn’t like the way coffee tasted and she never drank it, she loved the way it smelled. She didn’t know or care that a big reason people drank something that tasted bitter to her was to get a buzz. She was 13 years old and preferred hot chocolate (which smelled even better, and tasted wonderful).

    Then one day the smell of coffee in their house was over. “Mormons don’t drink coffee,” her mother said. “It’s not good for you.”

    “But you’re not a Mormon,” Sandy said.

    “I’m thinking of becoming one.”

    Oh, ok, Sandy thought. Whatever makes her happy. She knew her lonely mom had been studying Mormon teachings with the missionaries in the white short-sleeved shirts, black slacks and ties who rode their bicycles around the neighborhood and stopped by their house regularly. One of them was cute and smelled good like some kind of aftershave she didn’t know the name of. The only aftershave she could place was Old Spice, which her dad always used before he died of a heart attack recently.

    Her mom joined the church and had Sandy attend it with her regularly. “I don’t think what they’re saying is real,” Sandy told her mom. “And they don’t talk about Jesus much. I thought he was the main thing about church.”

    “Oh, you don’t understand yet,” her mom said.

    Sandy let it go at that. No use arguing with her mom.

    When Sandy told her friend Sarah that her mom was a Mormon now, she’d said, “They have some strange customs. Weird underwear. Several wives.”

    Sandy didn’t know which sounded worse, weird underwear or more than one wife. “Remind me never to marry a Mormon,” she told Sarah, making them both giggle.

    As her mother became more and more immersed in the church, there were some good things and some bad things about it. Sandy hadn’t wanted to, but she joined because her mom kept pushing her to. That was one reason. The other was that she liked a 15-year-old boy who attended church every Sunday who always sat next to her. She was too young to date but in two years… She also loved the Homemaking Meetings. There was always a fun project set up, like an easy sewing lesson or baking Christmas cookies, or planning funny skits, the types of things Sandy loved. She also had many opportunities now for baby-sitting jobs, which she liked, and could use the money since her mom’s salary working in an office didn’t cover as many things as when her dad was alive. Sandy missed her dad but hadn’t been devastated like her mom when he died.

    Her mom had kept her great sense of humor even after he died. Once she joined the church, though, she got more serious by the day and it was hard to tell whether if Sandy cracked a joke she’d laugh or get mad. That was by far the worst thing that happened when she joined the church. Even worse than the Mormon man her mom had just started dating. What a weirdo with his corny jokes that her mom made an effort to laugh at.

    Things continued on, her mom got used to not having her husband with her anymore. “Yes, she talks about Dad sometimes and tells me how much she misses him,” Sandy explained when someone asked how they were doing these days, “and I miss him a lot, too, but I’m ok.”

    There were no men in her mom’s life now but she had gotten promoted and said she was too busy with work and church to worry about men. And that 15-year-old Sandy had a crush on had stopped sitting next to her at church after a few months and began sitting by an older girl he was planning on marrying when he was home from the two year mission he’d just embarked on. Sandy was packing some things to go off to college in the fall. She didn’t attend church anymore and her mother had been driving her crazy to attend. “Your life would be perfect if you’d stay in the church,” she kept telling her.

    Like yours? Sandy wanted to say. It wasn’t the church’s fault her mom was unhappy. And if Sandy could bring herself to believe their teachings, it would be fine to follow, but she didn’t believe them, she thought they were kind of weird, and she now loved her coffee. It smelled so good and was her drug of choice.

  4. A story, not a great story, but a story about combating hatred by taking delight in the things around us. Some of you may enjoy the first sentence. “To anyone who lived in Connecticut River Valley dairy country, the smell of cow manure in the fields was as sure and welcome a sign of spring as the crocuses.”

  5. May 18, 2023

    Hi-Nella, New Jersey 2001

    “Go play in traffic or something,” my mom was frustrated with me. I wanted to play, but she had a lot to do. I didn’t understand what being a single mom meant at the time.

    “You’re mean,” I yelled at her, sticking out my tongue.

    She took a deep breath. “Listen, I’m sorry,” she said. “But I need you to find something to do for a bit. I heard a new girl moved into the complex. Why don’t you see if you can go make a friend to keep you busy?” She told me where the apartment was located and closed her office door.

    I made my way out of the apartment, hopped on my bike, and pedaled down past the pool and the main office, down to the little cul-de-sac where the apartment was situated before the entrance to the woods. I took a couple passes on my bike, trying to work up the nerve. I didn’t really have friends before or know what I was doing.

    Something in me pushed me to knock on the door. I almost got back on my bike and went home when a girl a couple years older than myself opened the door.

    “Whoa,” we both gasped. “Jinx,” we both said. We laughed nervously, confused. It was like staring in a mirror or looking at a sister I never knew I had.

    “I’m Ashley,” I said first, “What’s your name?”

    “Katie,” she said, smiling. “Wanna play?”

    Of course, I did and after that day, it was just an assumption that every day after that we would spend every free moment together. I was always comforted by her presence. The smell of sugar plum body spray became one of my favorite smells. It always brings me back to her.

    I never had a best friend before, but it felt pretty good to have someone to talk to, even about stuff I shouldn’t have known about at the time, and somewhere to go when my mom was busy. Her mom treated me like I was her other daughter. She disciplined me when I needed it, fed me, and tucked me in and kissed me goodnight next to Katie on the weekends.

    I didn’t know it wouldn’t last forever. I wasn’t jaded yet. We moved away from there almost two years later. After a tearful goodbye, I never intended it to be the last time I ever saw my first best friend.

    “See you soon, sissy,” I whispered.

    Morgantown, West Virginia 2014

    ASHLEY: Thank God for Facebook. It’s like we haven’t missed a thing, but we haven’t really talked either. I’m sorry to hear about what happened. Are you okay?
    KATIE: Yeah, I’m doing better than my mom. She’s devastated.
    ASHLEY: Is there anything I can do to help?
    KATIE: We lost all our clothes and everything in the fire. It looks like we’ve probably kept up being the same size haha do you think you could send me something
    ASHLEY: What’s the address where you’re getting mail? I can try to whip something together
    KATIE: I’ll get it for you soon. I really miss ya girly
    ASHLEY: Me too! I have to make time to see you next time I come to Jersey to see my dad
    KATIE: That would be awesome and you know I think MCR is touring this summer we should go!!
    ASHLEY: OMG we have to! I’ll let you know love you!
    KATIE: you too!!

    I hopped off the computer and sprayed a little sugar plum on my wrists with a smile.

    August 8, 2015
    The sugar plums are rotted now. I have been letting them rot for years but now there is no chance to water them. I kept the land tilled, but I did not tend to it. Nothing lasts forever. I should have gone to the funeral. What kept me from it? Money? An “important” prior engagement? I couldn’t even put the dirt over the seeds. I was weak. I am weak. I am sorry. 22 years old is too short a life for a star as bright as you. I spritz the last drop of sugar plum on your picture. When I smell that sugar plum smell, it’s like we’re playing in the woods again or watching SClub7 perform on live television or playing with our Bratz dolls. When I smell that smell, you are next to me.

    1. Ashley, I really enjoyed reading your story and liked the way it was like a journal with you writing down the dates of its chapters. The sense of regret for not always being there came through too, with your use of the sugar plum imagery in the last chapter. Thanks for posting.

  6. A story wherein I connected popovers as a vehicle to rid a small village of their dragon infestation. Bit of a romp!

  7. Started this story. Using it as a continuation of some of the prompts this month. Wrote about two different scents (one good such as dinner cooking one bad such as dirty diapers). It’s about the day in a life of a new mom and her husband coming home from work. 564 words so far and not even close to being done. I will return to it as I can today. Busy day.

    1. Commenting on my own post. I finished this one with just over 1,200 words. I actually made myself laugh writing this.

  8. [I am trying to post my story for the third (fourth?) time. Today, for a change, I tried writing a detective story based on the prompt. If you like it, my hard labour may not go in vain.]
    Day 18, ’23
    A Perfume to The Rescue?
    I was not even 15 when I was introduced to Simidi for the first time. I was back from school one afternoon and saw a crowd milling in and outside my next door neighbour, Parthada’s room. I pushed my way through to the window and sneaked a peek inside through a chink in the curtains. She was sitting on a mattress on the floor with the harmonium in front. Sitting gracefully like that, she reminded me of Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu deity of Knowledge and Learning.
    As she finished singing a popular Bengali song, and the words still keep ringing in my head : “Padma patai ghera shishir jeno, tomar Bhalobasa…” (The dew drops encapsulated by the Lotus petal is like your love), everyone inside and out put their hands together for a rapturous applause. I just kept looking at her oval shaped face. Fair-complexioned, with a mass of curly hair cascading down to her waist, she had the most charming face I had seen on anyone. Later, when I was introduced to her, I was simply mesmerized by the perfume she had put on. Not that I bothered much about perfumes and such stuff. She was also in the habit of taking, I found out later, some kind of peppermint or mouth freshner. A habit I picked up from her in due course of time.

    By the time I was in college, we two became the best of friends. I remember the nights that turned into late nights as we two sat side by side and talked about everything, well almost everything, under the sun. Parthada, my-neighbour-turned-her-husband was a Bank Manager and would be back home quite late into the nights. Her loneliness and utter boredom was what must have driven her to our friendship.

    I had shifted to the room next to hers by then and used it as my study room. Besides the study table and chair, the only other furniture was a bed. I didn’t use that bed often unless I studied till the early hours of the morning for my graduation. I normally preferred to sleep in the room on the groundfloor. I left the duplicate key of the room in the care of Simidi in case of emergencies.

    Sitting on a discarded bench on the patio outside our rooms, amidst the various tubbed flowering plants, we laughed and loved life to the lees. What I would always remember afterwards was her trademark perfume. She used a particular brand that was neither too strong nor repulsive. But there was something soothing about it that lingered long after our talks ended.

    That night, I was home preparing for the next day’s B.A paper. Simidi, for some reasons had also stayed behind. She and I talked quite late into the night and parted company only after Parthada’s arrival back home.
    Lying in bed that night, from the other side of the wall that separated our adjacent rooms, I heard Parthada hissing and Simidi sobbing in their room. I felt sorry for them as I was close to and very fond of the couple. I took all but a couple of peppermint from the file nearby and must have gone down sometime later.

    I woke up quite late the next morning for getting back up to my study. I was quite taken aback to find a couple of policemen on the corridor. On entering the study, the first thing that greeted my nose was the scent of that familiar perfume.
    What was Simidi doing in my room last night? I wondered.
    The slept-on bedsheet, smelling strongly of the perfume, made it clear to me that she must have slept in the bed as well. I also found the empty peppermint file (there was just a couple left, remember?) on the tool near the bed with the lid kept back on the empty glass of water.

    It was much later, when I was taken for questioning by one of them that I came to know what had happened. My nextdoor neighbour, Parthada got murdered. His wife, Simidi, naturally was the prime suspect. Dishevelled and hysterical, Simidi had denied any involvement in the murder.

    Long after the dead body was taken for post mortem and Simidi was taken under police custody, I lay popped up on my bed and tried to put together bits and pieces of what I had learnt from others. The policeman told me that they had learnt from Simidi that the couple had quarreled over something trivial the night before. I knew that she was being honest.

    When Parthada got hyper, Simidi left him behind, came out and entered my room with the extra key, thinking that things between them would be back to normal once Partha cooled down. I, for one at least, didn’t doubt this version of her story either. She had told the policemen that having latched the door from inside, she eased herself into the bed and was fast asleep. Yes, she did take a couple of peppermint before hitting the bed. She slept till quiet late in the morning. On getting up, she had a glass of water (Knowing her well, I could even visualise her putting the lid back), locked my room and got shocked to find the door of their bedroom open. She found Partha lying on the carpeted floor. The way he was lying with his face down and legs doubled up, Simi knew something was wrong. She, with the support of their domestic help, didn’t waste much time in calling the police. Had I not known her better, I would have had reasons to suspect her regarding this testimonial as murderers are known to have called the police themselves in many instances.

    A long story short, the trial of Simidi went for months. The police were clearly confused. Parthada was murdered, hit on the back of his head from behind with a heavy weapon. Though the murder weapon, the iron hammer, was found out in a mobile garbage bin not far from the house, there were no fingertips. The murderer must have used rubber gloves or something. That complicated the case even more.

    Naturally, all fingers were being pointed at Simidi when I was summoned to the court. After the oath in the witness box, the public prosecutor asked me a few questions about myself before asking me questions regarding my relations with Simidi.

    “So, Mr. Aryan, what you have just told us, and let me see if I got all the points correctly here, is that the prime suspect, Mrs.Simi, in your opinion, has been one of the most decent ladies you have seen in your life. ‘A cultured lady’, ‘given to singing and known for her love of literature’, ‘one who is incapable of doing anything as sinister as Parthada’s murder’, right?”
    He took off his glasses, wiped them with a white piece of cloth while waiting for my answer.
    I nodded
    “What makes you think so convincingly that the suspect couldn’t have murdered her husband?”
    I told him what I knew of Simidi. How delicate she was. I talked about the murder weapon and asked the prosecutor if he felt that Simidi could have hit her husband from behind with that heavy instrument without his knowledge? I told of our friendship in detail, much to the chagrin of the lawyer hired by Simidi’s parents.

    Finally, I turned to the Judge and said,”My Lord, I can honestly say that we’ve been the best of friends. I would have sensed her presence from miles apart by something that has defined her persona to me over the years – her branded perfume. I have no doubt in my mind that she did spend the night in my room because I smelt it the first thing on entering my room. Besides, the post mortem report has already established the time of the murder inbetween 1 and 1.30 in the morning. She couldn’t have gone out my room at that time, back to hers, struck Parthada (my voice choked here) on the head in there from behind stealthily, could she? And to think that like a professional killer, she came back to my room, slept in my bed and pretended to be all innocent the very next day, will be too much for me to digest!”

    I could see the face of the Judge softening and hear a few giggles in the courtroom as well. I don’t know whether my interrogation was one of the reasons of Simidi’s acquittal later or not. But the Public Prosecutor patted me on the back jovially outside the courtroom later.

    “Go for a Course in L.Lb. You’ll make a fantastic lawyer, youngman. This is my card.” He said taking a card out of his briefcase. “Keep it in case you need any assistance.” He concluded before getting into his car.

    And in case you are wondering about the murderer, let me tell you that Madhu, their trusted servant, with a long history, was arrested soon afterwards. But whether he killed Parthada for the money, like the police claimed, or there were some other motives, I guess, it’s not for me to decide, or is it?

    The end

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