Sometimes We Call Blood, Juice
My car smells like meat. Definitely beefy meat. For weeks now I've been searching for the origin. The first time I noticed the smell it was fresh like a barbecued burger or a tiger pawed gazelle sprawled on the veldt. That first day the smell made me hungry. Now, it makes my skin crawl and palms sweaty. In a panic I pull over to the side of the road or freeway and maniacally search under and between the seats. No meat. There is no longer any carpet between the running boards. Just ugly exposed rusted metal but... no meat.
Every morning there are at least three cats nestled on the hood of my car and packs of drooling dogs scratching to get in. Seagulls don't usually flock this far inland. I've nicknamed my car St. Francis of Assisi. A homeless man with a hanger was nearly inside when I startled him. I wish I'd hidden myself in the bush. Maybe he could have found the meat -- maybe he is more desperate than me.
Three weeks ago on the day before the beef smell, I prayed. I got down on my knees before the side of my bed. I tried my best to pose exactly like the frightening large-eyed child on the prayer plaque I had as a girl. My hands were pressed together and my face floated heavenward. "Dear Lord, bring me something new. Amen."
But, meat? Or rather the smell of... Did the Lord bring me a meat scent and if so, why? Is the Lord passive aggressive -- punishing me with meat for being an atheist or for not talking to him for a long time?
It's getting hot out now, equator hot. You can imagine how this might escalate the biology of rotting. I took a baseball bat to all of the windows except the windshield. I drive, sitting on broken glass and with a gas mask strapped on. As an inside joke, I only play CD's by The Meat Puppets and Meat Beat Manifesto, or the Smith's Meat is Murder and, well, you get the idea.
I am the scourge of my neighbors. A pariah. Friends no longer include me. The smell is far reaching. I've become accustomed to sleeping with the mask on. Funny, isn't it, how things like that just become second nature.
I work on the 52nd floor of an office building and I've been asked to HR twice in regards to my mask. "Not professional," I was told. My car is parked 52 floors down and yet I type and I smell it. Turns out the gas mask was a dead meat give-away that I was the one responsible for the offensive air quality. He who first smelt it dealt it.
They found a reason to fire me. I can't really blame them. Rotten meat smell is not conducive to the work environment.
I stay awake nights, worried that I will always smell it. That even when I get rid of the car, even then, my nose won't be able to let go of the memory.
I put an ad in the paper. No one comes near.
I am alone with the car and the smell. The smell is all I have. I don't want it.
Arranging flowers is my new job. You don't realize how much you fucking wanted to kill your old job until you get a new one. Bad jobs are similar to self cutting. You don't want to do it but feel you must punish yourself to know you are alive.
The perfume of the flowers drowns out the meat, in part. So far no one has figured out the bad smell is my first cousin. The people who work in this place are the kind of people who understand the limitations of a mirror. I've carpooled with them to places I've never been before. Because I have no windows in my car they are empathetic and never ask me to drive.
Sometimes atheists pray and sometimes the Lord answers.
About the author:
Frayn Masters lives in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon at the same time. She is part of a performance group called Haiku Inferno.