“What do you think this smells like?”
He recoils initially, then leans forward and sniffs. “Popcorn.”
She shakes her head, grinning slyly and takes back the paper. “No, it doesn’t.”
A shrug. “Well of course it doesn’t. It’s a sticker. How’s it supposed to smell like butter and salt and all that? It just smells like popcorn ‘cuz that’s the best they can do.”
“No,” she says again.
She leans forward conspiratorially, eyes bright. “You just think it smells like popcorn because there’s a picture of popcorn on the sticker, so you smell what you’re expecting. But it really smells like something else entirely. Try again.”
“It’s a scratch-n-sniff.”
“Close your eyes.”
A smack on the arm. “Just do it. Close your eyes.” He sighs, but does as instructed. “Clear your mind. Inhale.”
With a roll of his closed eyes, he breathes in, expecting nothing. He smells smoke. Wood smoke. Dirt and pine needles. Bug spray and sunscreen. Fish roasting over a campfire. Then he hears wind. Rustling branches and creaking trees. He feels mottled sunlight flickering over his eyes. There are footsteps approaching from behind.
He opens his eyes. She’s staring expectantly.
“What did you smell?”
* * *
Story by Gregory M. Fox