Fresh Cut Chemicals – Short Story
By: John D. Barbee
Ever since Pen’s abortion, I’ve associated the smell of spearmint with death.
There were a lot of smells in that lobby like cleaning chemicals and the harsh scent of cigarette smoke on other patients. But in the days leading up to the procedure, Pen made a nervous habit out of chewing spearmint gum.
I can recall the incessant chomp, each smack another slobbery cue that something was wrong. She picked up her first pack from the gas station right after we had our appointment scheduled.
From that moment on the chewing became an addiction. This upset me. The tiny wrappers piling up on my floorboard made it impossible to forget that even if we wanted a choice, we didn’t have one.
When I drove her home after it was said and done, she wasn’t chewing anymore. She wasn’t doing much of anything. I kind of expected tears or maybe a conversation about what would happen next. Instead I dropped her off at her house, went home, and didn’t hear from her for almost three days. That’s not to suggest I didn’t make attempts at contact.
On the third day, I found an aborted piece of spearmint gum stuck to the underside of my computer desk. I yanked the mummified candy from where it rested and held it up to my nose. The smell was gone, but somehow still there.
It reminded me of something my dad had told me a few days prior after he mowed the lawn. I commented that fresh cut grass was one of those smells, like gasoline, that you either loved or hated. He told me that the smell of fresh cut grass was a chemical the grass released to attempt to repair itself after being massacred by the mower’s blades.
That made me somehow sad. Not that I care about the yard that much, I just couldn’t help but think of Pen. In a lot of ways, the spearmint smell was her fresh cut chemical. Realizing abortion was our only option broke her heart, and from that point on she chewed the overpowering gum as a defense mechanism. She smacked and smacked but never grew back.
One day, I might be a legitimate father. I will make sure I’m prepared. I will make sure I’m grown up and have a solid job and a mower that I can mow our big yard with.
And when my child asks me about the smell of fresh cut grass, I’m going to tell it the smell is a chemical the grass releases to help it grow back stronger than it was before.