Subtitle: The fragrance of death
The printshop was in Brian’s capable hands on Friday when the moon was full. It was November 3, but she hadn’t changed her Halloween clothes. The eyes were real, as I understand it. They just looked as if they came from a mask. And the smell was potent; potentially an amalgam of every perfume at the cosmetics counter in Parisians at the mall across the street.
She needed flyers. A local sign shop had done the art and she’d make sure that they’d send it to us by email. Could we do it?
I’m sure that Brian responded politely. There are some jobs that are better for other printers and this was surely one of them. The customer was insistent. Wisely, Brian asked for a deposit. That was apparently difficult, because he had to test four credit cards before one would work and still had to get a little cash for the deposit needed over the limit of the card. The order was placed and the customer would make sure that the art was sent . . . that is, if she could remember where she was when she walked out the front door.
My beautiful wife didn’t like her perfume. She walked in a half hour later and detected the aroma still lingering over the smell of printing solvents. When I got back from my weekend trip, I heard all about the first part of the story.
There was no residual odor when I arrived this morning. We discussed the potential of the job at the morning meeting. No art had arrived from the sign shop and Brian was skeptical that any would materialize. I didn’t detect the smell when the phone rang shortly after lunch.
“Are my flyers ready?” asked a somewhat vague voice at the other end.
“I don’t know, but I’ll check. Could you tell me who you are, please?”
“Oh,” was the reply, followed by several seconds of silence. “Are you there?”
“I know where I am, but she doesn’t know who she is,” I’m thinking, when it finally dawns on her that she hasn’t told me her name. I check on the job and find out that the art still hasn’t arrived. I suggest that she check again with the sign shop.
Two hours later, I smelled it. The overpowering aroma of the Parisian’s cosmetics counter. I considered sneaking out the back door. It was inevitable. Brian walked into my office.
“She’s here,” he said. “She can’t wait any longer for her flyers and we still don’t have the art.”
I noticed a furtive movement in his eyes. He was edging toward the back door. I took a deep breath, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to hold it for long.
I smiled as I saw her. She was there with a friend, a rather fierce looking young woman, and her eyes really weren’t too far out of focus. Maybe this would be ok. I explained to her that we really couldn’t do anything until the files were sent to us.
“But I left a copy,” she slurred. “Can’t you do anything with it?”
Brian, who had regained his fortitude, produced the wrinkled paper from the job jacket.
“No,” we both replied.
“But I put it together on my computer!” she replied, a little more assertive now.
“Can you send it to us?” I asked.
“No, it’s on my computer,” was the answer.
My eyes had begun to water and I could feel a big sneeze coming on. “You see, we would need it on our computer,” I told her.
“Oh,” followed by the same silence I had experienced earlier on the phone. “I don’t understand.”
The fog had begun to thicken. She lost focus altogether as I refunded her deposits, both the credit card and the cash. She came to only briefly to ask how long it would take before the money was back into her card.
“I have a lot of these,” she murmured as she put the plastic back into her pocketbook, “but I need some more.”
It had really quit being funny towards the end of the conversation, but her last statement made it really sad. It wasn’t just the perfume she was drowning in. I almost opened my mouth, but I think her friend was reading my mind. The fierce friend gave me a fierce look and took her arm.
“Sorry I couldn’t help you,” I muttered as they walked out the door. I was (and am) feeling guilty.
The smell lingered on a while, like dying flowers.