Writing‎ > ‎

Perfumery

Outside Mrs. Goodwyn’s second story window, while she puffed perfume onto herself from a cube of thick glass, three buzzards tore at a deer carcass. The house, large and old and square, smelled of wet plaster covered with so many years of perfume that it should have been hidden in a purple fog. The buzzards had arrived just before she returned from church, but she had not seen them; a thick tangle of ivy and trumpet creeper was growing over the porch and obscured the view of the side yard.

In her room, between sprays exhaled from the nozzle with each squeeze of her hand, she first heard the croak of the birds.[she didnt hear them. she's deaf. she saw the snow from her seat at the vanity and went to look and then saw them.]  She rose slowly from the chair, steadied herself at the dresser. Her knees and ankles cracked. She made her way to the window and looked down. Three of them were there. The deer was wide open at one end, apparently torn in half, and two buzzards pulled at entrails spilled on the ground there. The hind legs and the rump were missing. Several feet of gray-blue intestine shook at the pecking of one of them. Something shiny and dark purple, nearly black, probably a liver, was being pulled from the body by another. The third had opened the hide between the shoulder and ribcage. It jumped high with wings spread, stretched strings of muscle and sinew until they broke free, and swallowed each with a gulp. The remainder snapped back and stuck to the fur, pink tentacles around the meat-red hole. A fourth buzzard glided in, shining black like the others. They hopped and croaked at its arrival. It found a place at the spine. 

It was two o’clock on a Sunday in February. A mixture of large raindrops and wet pieces of snow fell to the ground, and when she opened the window she could hear the smack of them hitting tree branches on their way down and the slosh as they joined the gray layer of liquid on the ground.

“Get.” she said quietly. They ducked their necks lower between their hunched shoulders and kept eating. She thought perhaps her son had placed the deer there as a joke. He knew how much she hated buzzards. Her son had been dead for sixteen years, but this was sometimes unclear. 
She looked about the room for something to throw, but found nothing. She closed the window and walked toward the door and down the stairs, bones and boards creaking under her slow moving weight. She knew if her daughter were there she would say be careful, would say she should move her room to the first floor, would say she needed someone living there with her. She had never had a daughter, but this was unclear also.

When she reached the bottom stair and went around the banister she stopped at the hall table. On its marble top  bottle waited for her.  It was smaller than the one in her room and lighter. The size of a plum in the palm of her hand. Vertical ridges were cut deeply in the glass. A simple silver nozzle released tiny spritzes of perfume. The wallpaper where she stood was darkened here by years of spraying, making the fleur-de-lis pattern disappear in liquid shadow. She made her way to the kitchen where the window faced that side of the yard.

At church everyone smiled. She smiled. Although she could read lips well enough to make out half of the pleasantries they spoke to her, and could hear the few who leaned in to talk loudly into her ear, most of the time she was content to just smile. She was inconsequential, a decoration, a tool to allow them to congratulate themselves on treating someone well despite her lack of value.

She knew how they spoke of her when she was gone. But it was better to be remembered than forgotten.
Comments