by Leonard Bishop
I believe Mother’s Day is a maudlin time, and phony. A celebration of money-spending sponsored by greedy business people. If we don’t offer our women esteem all the days we are with them, then a battery of gifts on that particular date will not produce endearing emotions. But fortunately for all mothers, that is only my attitude. On my wife’s crowded calendar, Mother’s Day is circled in violent red.
It is a menacing holiday. Recognize Mother’s Day as important, meaningful, and be generous with the gift–or else!
Until I began shopping odors for my wife, there were no differences between the smell of Chanel #5 and a spray for armpits. Celia would always urge me to cultivate a “sense of aroma.” I would shrug, “Come off it, Babe. My buck and a half after-shave smells just as good.” But because she enjoyed perfumes and essences and colognes, I worked at smelling and realized she was right. Thus, on Mother’s Day I always gift her with an aroma.
I went to the mall and nodded to the middle-aged woman behind the perfume counter. “I want some oh-D-Cologne for a Mother’s Day gift.”
Her mouth pursed prissily as she re-pronounced the word, “Cologne. Any particular name?”
I winked, “Just bring some out and I’ll sniff them.”
She smiled, “We’ll begin with Passion.” Her voice trembled with sincerity. How quaint, she was thinking, even uncouth guerrillas bring gifts to their hairy mates.
The woman handed me a vial shaped like a fawn. I jammed down the nozzle like I would a can of insect repellent. I gagged and began sniffling. Some people glared at me for bringing my contagious virus into their area. I gasped, “It’s too foreign. Smells like rinsed spaghetti. This is for a beautiful woman, not some frump with great buttocks!”
She kept bringing up figurine bottles with names like Ravishing, Enchantress, Seduction. Failure was making her mean. She sprayed them at me as though using poison gas. “This is pleasing,” she said. “And lovely.”
It made me belch. I wanted to lick the sticky film from my nose. “It’s not blithesome enough. I want a scent to satisfy a mischievous, jocular, kittenish temperament.”
The sounds in her throat were like suppressed curses. Though she glared at me, I could sense her beginning fright. The day had been windy and my hair was splattered across my brow like a witch’s wig. I had not taken my riboflavin caplets and there were sores on the corners of my mouth. I had spilled some coffee and lots of catchup on my T-shirt that boldly announced, “Writers do it on paper.” When I become intense, I hunker over and my voice growls.
The woman began moving away from me and I hunched after her as she sprayed me from odd-shaped the vials. I kept saying, “No. It’s not buoyant enough. My wife bubbles with frivolity.” Or “No. It isn’t ambrosial, the bouquet doesn’t linger.” Or “That’s religious with incense. I want the aroma of intrigue, a disposition of fantasy.”I was becoming annoyed and my neck swells and varicose veins bulge on my skin when I’m annoyed. I breathe hard and spit begins to pop from my lips. I was becoming dizzy with the fumes of colognes.
The woman clenched her mouth and squinted meanly, then strode to the counter and opened a dark and squeaky drawer. She moved as though cleaning away cobwebs. She drew out a circular bottle and thrust it at my face and aimed.
“Yes!” I shouted. “Yes!” I inhaled deeply. “Yes. Fragile with sentiment–it’s spellbinding and lusty!” The woman glowed with achievement. When she told me the cost I nearly fainted. But it was Mother’s Day–a holiday for expensive sacrifices.
I was teaching a private class in “Writing the Novel.” When I entered the room, the three students who disliked me tittered nastily. One whispered, “Just smell him. He’s finally come out of the closet.” I ignored the implication and taught the class, hoping no one handed me a corsage when it was over. I was glad to leave and get home.
It was 11 PM when I entered the house. I moved into the bedrooms to check if all was right. Luke was asleep, so was Celia. As I turned toward the kitchen, she suddenly sat up and shouted with shock and anger, “What have you been doing–where have you been?”
Cleverly, I said, “Huh?”
She yelled, “You smell like the Lithuanian bordello!”
I shook my head, mumbling, “No, Babe. No.” I quickly thrust the wrapped bottle at her. “I had to sample what I bought. Here’s your Mother’s Day gift, a little early.”
She tore open the wrapping and grinned and began dabbing some on her wrists and neck. She closed her eyes and purred, “Pre-eminent, incandescent, scintillating, truly distinguished. The clerk who sold it to you had exceptional taste.”
Now, I was becoming angry. I had almost been suffocated to death getting her a Mother’s Day gift–and what was she hiding from me that allowed her to know what a Lithuanian bordello smelled like?
©2013 the estate of Leonard Bishop
(first published May 22, 1988 the Manhattan Mercury)