By Greg Doolan
It shouldn’t have been possible for Jim to see the body from where he seemed to be, some twenty feet overhead. The ceiling wasn’t that high, yet he had a clear view nonetheless. “Is this what it is like to be dead?” he thought as he looked down.
The damage wasn’t as bad as he expected. The body – his body, he reminded himself – was slumped back in his favourite chair; right arm flung out to one side. His left hand still gripped the leather armrest while one leg was stretched out in front. “Add a glass of whisky and a book to the scene and it could be normal,” Jim thought. But the handgun on the floor and the red stain pooling under the chair gave lie to that possibility. “No. I am dead. It is done.”
Jim had thought about having a final drink until he remembered how useless that would be. The accident one year earlier had robbed him of his sense of smell and every morsel of food or drink since had tasted like ashes. The surgeons told Jim at the time he was lucky, that it was a miracle he’d survived at all. Yet Jim would have traded an eye or a limb in a heartbeat to get back what he had lost. “A chef who cannot taste or smell is like a musician who has lost their hands,” he told one reporter in an interview following his release from hospital. Jim’s therapist suggested that talking about the accident might help his recovery. However, seeing the newspaper headline the next day – “Attack leaves bitter taste for talented chef” – was like a blow to the solar plexus that left Jim feeling sick to the core. Shortly thereafter, Jim lost what little appetite he had left for fine food and wine.
Where Jim would once take a side of prime steak and turn it into several different types of heaven on a plate, food now held no joy. It sustained him, but that was all. And for Jim that wasn’t enough.
The gun had felt heavy in his hand, Jim remembered, and he had sat for hours just looking at it. He had even tried one last time to cook something – something simple from his childhood; warming and aromatic. He whisked eggs together with a little cream, a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Butter sizzled as it hit the hot pan and the egg mixture spat and bubbled as it followed. Jim knew exactly what it should have smelt and tasted like. But the only taste now was that of final, deep disappointment.
The scene below started to fade. Jim thought he could hear something. “Is that someone banging on the door?” Then, as blackness closed in and sight and sound started to fade, his taste and smell was suddenly there again. The metallic tang of gunpowder and blood flooded his mouth and nose.
Jim smiled and then he was gone.
Hauntingly good Mr. Doolan.
Ooh, Greg, very nicely done.
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Not a word too much, lacking or out of place. It is so simple and yet so complex. Bravo, Greg. It is perfect.
That was wonderful, Greg. I really felt Jim’s sadness at losing his sense of taste and smell, like a “musician losing his hands.” It’s so odd that I would have posted something on WS just before reading this about an egg mixture frying in butter … I must have been drawn to this page by unseen hunger forces! 🙂 Well-done, and kudos.
Nice twist, Mr. O’Doolan, in the best tradition of captivating short stories.
Ohhhh, fantastic. What a fabulous read, Greg. A touching story, with a little bitey voice. The end line was the icing on the cake [sorry for the food reference, Jim!]. Plus, I know someone who has lost the senses of smell and taste… this captures the frustration brilliantly.