Mikki Aronoff ~ The Sniffer of Spices

Not so long ago, you felt the fuzz of pussy­wil­low against your skin, spring rain on your face. Then, the hit of hard times, the rush and drench of gut­ter-flood, and The Woman you once thought kind­ly lift­ed you up, tucked you in her over­coat. The res­cue came at a price: Small you will stay. You will live in my pock­et. You will learn the smells of spices and squash the chal­lenges of those will­ing to wager you’ve got it wrong. She counts on your accu­ra­cy and win­nings so her hus­band, fixed in frowns and smelling of offal and rot, will not beat her. In return, she will feed and house you. You mem­o­rize clove, cin­na­mon, kalon­ji. Soon, a thou­sand scents. You have a good nose. Your grat­i­tude and The Woman’s sharp needs hur­ried your learn­ing. Every day you ride bounc­ing in her over­coat to the car­ni­val on the out­skirts of town, where peo­ple are will­ing to part with sense and mon­ey on guess­ing games. Most pass by, laugh no one the size of a woodrat can be right 94.7% of the time. You do well for The Woman, but you strug­gle to adjust to the pocket’s muf­fling dark, to the lint and stale crumbs that lit­ter your new home, pack the spaces between your toes, cramp and prick­le your mood. You hold your tears for fear their salt would shrink and shriv­el you to a nub­bin.  You wish you could work in the park, as the car­ni­val smells of shit and sug­ar, which scram­bles your sens­es, as do grimy chil­dren scream­ing for fried things, demand­ing to strad­dle sway-backed don­keys thin­ly dis­guised as uni­corns. Their want reminds you of your grandfather’s when your body began to bloom. Nights he grew, you dimin­ished. Nights he whis­pered the promise of its blush, the com­mer­cial poten­tial of your swollen parts. These days, you need only the link of your mind and nose. But your home over­whelms with the smell of nick­els and sticky pep­per­mint. The clink of coins and the rus­tle of can­dy wrap­pers deaf­en you. You try to stay grate­ful for The Woman hav­ing saved you from drown­ing, but her side of the bar­gain is slip­ping.  A year ago, the meals she pre­pared were tasty enough and steady. Yesterday, she for­got your sup­per. Today, three tiny turnips for lunch. She smiles at your tin­ny com­plaints; she’s indebt­ed not only to the income you bring, but to your wife­ly reminders to take her pills, to stop at the butcher’s for mar­row. You motion her to moor the strag­gles of her hair before you cross the thresh­old of her home—a big place, three sep­a­rate rooms! Evenings, you set­tle into a cor­ner of your pock­et, tuck a hope­ful nap­kin into the neck of your blouse. Nights, her mem­o­ries and yours begin to col­lide and jum­ble like dice. Sometimes you feel your bones stretch and length­en to fill the space of her palace, and some­times The Woman feels hers con­strict to fit in the bub­ble of your pock­et. Smells swirl and con­fuse. You imag­ine bend­ing over the stove, inhal­ing the steam of cab­bage with car­away on the boil; she pic­tures her­self pranc­ing out­side, snuf­fling spring daisies open­ing to the sun, suck­ing on clover. The sweet­ness of fun­nel cakes and the muck of camels clash in your nos­trils. Your mus­cles clench unsprung as you dream of reclin­ing on feath­ers, your back to the bulk of her hus­band while pre­tend­ing to have a headache.


Mikki Aronoff’s work appears in New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Tiny Molecules, HAD, Bending Genres, Milk Candy Review, Gone Lawn, Mslexia, The Dribble Drabble Review, 100 word sto­ry, The Citron Review, Atlas and Alice, trampset, jmww, The Offing, and else­where. She’s received Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction nominations.