THE COOKIE CRUMBLES
A gift? Nah, it’s
more like a curse. And different people get different type signs.
Like Mrs. Hinckley, my old neighbor,
used to see rain in front of your face. Yeah, rain. If you were the one, she’d
see streams of water coming down,
so she could hardly make out your features. And real soon, you’d be. . . .
Some people smell flowers, like at a
funeral. Lilies, I guess.
But me . . . I don’t know anybody else
who smells what I do.
Years back, it started, when I was a
freshman in high school. The week before my brother was supposed to graduate.
You know, Vinnie. Who was more like a
sister than a brother. Always whining, and depressed about stuff. This time it
It was this unusually hot, humid June
I’d sniffed the air. “Hey Mom . . .” I
said. “Are you baking? In this heat?” We had no a/c, back then.
“Baking?” Mom laughed, hoarsely. “You
crazy? I’m doing my hair. It’s Saturday night.” A whoosh of hairspray, but I
couldn’t smell that.
Cookies, I smelled. Mmmmmm . . . Chocolate
chip, or . . . oatmeal? They smelled so good. . . .
At least, in my head.
I’d checked the oven, and it was cold.
Oversized cookies, with burnt edges, I
pictured. But inside them, maggots squirmed.
I gagged. Hunger had turned to nausea,
Where had that come from?
“Mom . . .” I said.
don’t go out, I thought. It’s raining. Roads are slick.
“What?” she said, through a Virginia
Slim. Those long, skinny cigarettes she loved more than Vinnie and me.
Cancer, I feared. Tonight, more than ever. What
was it about this night? Why couldn’t I shake this feeling?
The smell of cookies was stronger, now.
Like they’d come fresh out of that cold, dead oven.
It took Mom forever to get ready.
Finally, she grabbed her purse and keys. “Sandy,” she said. “Where’s your
He’d been gone since supper. In the
kitchen, he’d split up his chicken salad with the fork but hadn’t taken one
bite. That glazed look was in his eyes, like he saw far beyond what most kids
In my mind, I saw him, upstairs: eyes bulging,
stretched neck bloated and
purple, swinging from a homemade noose.
“Mom!” I screamed.
Maybe she saw it, too. One look, and she
raced upstairs, dropping her purse on the way. The can of hairspray fell out,
clunked down the stairs.
I was frozen. She threw open Vinnie’s
door and wailed. I sunk down to the floor.
And the smell of cookies finally went
It came back, naturally, when the cancer
ate up Mom’s liver and brain. That one lung was just a midnight snack.
In college, I was caught off-guard.
Winter nights, most of us hit the diner for hot cocoa and pastries. But on our
floor, some chicks baked for the hell of it.
I smelled cookies long after our dorm
burned down. . . .
And my husband was shot. I could go on.
Nah, enough of this. Thanks for the
coffee. Next time, it’s on me.
We can share one of those rich,
No? Well, whatever they are, they smell
really, really good.