The Smell of Other People’s Houses Collection

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

December 7, 2023

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration. This week’s Collection is a nod to the novel with an interesting prompt-like title: The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

My Great Grandmother Langdon Lived to Nearly 100 by Kerry E.B. Black

To enter her home was to step into a rose-powdered time when she needed no help. She surveyed her tiny kingdom without sight. To maintain the illusion of independence, everything remained in its place. Nothing moved. That way, she found what she needed from a sharp memory rather than vision.

A whiff of synthetic roses conjures her, the way scent summons even the deepest of buried memories. Like magic ingredients, these paint her portrait. Dusting powder conveyed with a plush, pastel puff. Room spray or eau de toilette. Desiccated bouquets. And the rattle from tins of candied petal pastilles.

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Gossiping by Sue Spitulnik

The lady wearing the fancy hat loves to clean.
Says you can eat off her floors.
Maybe that’s true, but standing next to her
The smell of Lysol and bleach gag me.

And that lady’s coat always has an odor.
It’s not totally unpleasant but made me wonder.
I took her some bread and found
She shares her house with ten cats.

How about the man over there?
Doesn’t he smell of an old fashioned pipe?
My goodness, Mom, get a life.
It’s Mary Jane and beer.

Do people know they carry their home odors with them?
Do I?

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Sells Best… by Geoff Le Pard

Curt Chilblains runs Little Tittweaking’s Scent of Home Spirit. Startle your friends with those authentic smells of times past. A flagon of Basement Damp will recall grandma’s badly ventilated Victorian semi; pick up a selection of Moulds of the Forest and be returned to mushroom-infested student digs; hanker for to the excitement of that first Christmas? Then grab a can of Santa Pee; like to tease? Then shock a loved ones as they once again reprise the day their exam results arrived with a plug in miasma of Evac-U-Bowel. Also available: brewed coffee, grilled bacon, baked bread and vanilla.

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Fragrantly Yours by Reena Saxena

Her guest room feels different, though I’ve spent a couple of nights there earlier.

“Have you changed the curtains?”

She nods in the negative before saying goodnight.

I dream of a garden with long stems of tuberoses. Their fragrance is nocturnal, but tonight is different. Winds have stopped and the garden is silent.

I shouldn’t have stayed here, especially since her husband is suffering from mental illness.
I wake up with a start and know what’s missing – the vase of tuberoses she always kept, for I love all things natural.

The fragrance has since gone out of her life.

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Sweet Memory by Liz Husebye Hartmann

American tourists with roots in rolling mountains and cows mooing in Norwegian dialects, they assumed it was fine: drive up to the rural farm, request a tour. They spoke the Norse of their forefathers. Surely they’d be welcome!

Wide-eyed Alice stared. A goat stood, nibbling on the house’s grassy roof. Alice wrinkled her nose: the funky scent of barnyard, cheese, cow shit.

Side-eye notwithstanding, the farmwife welcomed them, in kerchief, heavy work boots, and cautious smile. She’d sat them at her kitchen with a glass of milk, fresh from her cow.

That scent and smile warms Alice, decades later.

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The Smell Was Wrong, But by Duane L Herrmann

My Great Granpa had recently died. He and I were special buddies. Before I had siblings or cousins to play with, there was just me and him. His bedroom was the happy room. We were happy to see each other. I was proof that the family would continue in his new land. One day when I went into his room, it was empty. Granma had cleaned it out. Not only was it empty, but it smelled wrong. It didn’t smell like Great Granpa anymore. The room was never as interesting after that. I didn’t understand, but still miss him.

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Honoree by JulesPaige

The shrine on the far wall from the front door, may not have been labeled as such. Not in that small house as you entered the living room. The one large window in the front barely let in light. That image, the painting of the bride on her wedding day. Almost ghostly in the dim light, in the gown her mother made.

It was a warm loving home, where the cousins played dress up in grandmother’s frilly aprons. Thankfully, the painting was saved. Transferred to the daughter, who ‘lost’ her mother when she was young. Now displayed with pride.

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First Day by Michael Fishman

He walked home, a torrent of thoughts about the first day of middle school fighting for space in his mind. Some too quick to register, others, cunning and artful, burdened his eleven-year-old shoulders into a pronounced slouch.

Thoughts churned as he walked. Am I good enough? I don’t understand? Can I do it? They’re taller, faster, better…

I’m scared.

He opened the door and raised his eyes to the smell of chocolate chip cookies.

“Mom?”

“In the kitchen sweetie.”

He ran to her.

“For me?”

She saw the tears. “You ok, dear?”

He hugged her. Tight.

“I am now.”

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Roses (Part I) by D. Avery

Hope climbed into her parents’ bed, the space where her father had lain still warm.

“Close your eyes, Mommy.”

“The hearing game?”

“Nope! The smelling game.”

Hope breathed deeply through her nose.

“I smell—”

“Coffee!”

“Too easy. I smell coffee and I smell the wood stove. Daddy’s started bacon… I smell Daddy— chainsaw oil and sawdust; cows. What do you smell, Mommy?”

Hope’s mother shook away an acrid memory of her grandparents’ home, and its cold pervasive scent of poverty. She buried her face into her daughter’s long black hair.

“Hope. I smell Hope.”

Hope giggled.

“Breakfast’s ready!”

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Roses (Part II) by D. Avery

Hope and her mother went downstairs where breakfast was on the table.

“What were you two giggling about up there?”

“Hope was naming all the smells that came to her.”

“Our house smells good, Daddy.”

“That’s a relief. Hmm. I remember being a young boy at my great-grandmother’s house, one of those places with wallpaper that couldn’t ever have been new. She said the flowers were cabbage roses.”

“Cabbage roses?”

“Yes, Hope, and it made perfect sense to me because my grandma’s house breathed two scents— the cabbage she always cooked, and the rose scented perfume she always wore.”

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Roses (Part III) by D. Avery

“I don’t like the smell of cabbage.”

“Me either, Hope,” her mom said, wrinkling her nose. “But cabbage roses smell wonderful. My Gran-mère tended some in front of the old farmhouse. The one beautiful thing on that place. Of course, Gran-père always complained about them; the thorns, the smell… But they were Gran-mère’s pride and joy.”

“You were her pride and joy. It’s possible her roses survived the fire.”

“So?”

“So let’s throw a shovel into the truck and go for a ride.”

Smiling, Hope finished her breakfast, eager to bring back a beautiful rose from her mother’s past.

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The Children by Bill Engleson

I was here earlier.

A home visit.

You could tell the mother was trying ? the living room was cluttered, but an organized clutter. The kitchen, however, was a shambles. Dishes several days grime-encrusted, cats on the table, scrounging for crumbs, sour milk.

Whatever they could exhume.

And the stench.

It was more than curdled milk.

Rancid meat festering on the floor, more than even a ravenous semi-feral cat could tolerate.

I’d returned with my partner and two constables.

We’d been through plenty of apprehensions.

Cops steadied nerves.

Ours.

Parents.

Often one beleaguered parent.

The children were rarely unruffled.

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Time Past by D. Avery

The house’s rattly breath
wheezes with weather
Time has scrubbed clapboards clean of forgotten paint
Wild bushes scaffold its
dilapidation

The house holds its stories
in sepia tones
You crack the door open on creaking hinges
At the stroke of eyesight
dust motes blink awake

Memories yawn and stretch
the house stirs to life
Wood range pulses, yeasty bread in the oven
wet boots steam underneath
Time past breezes through

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House Broke by D. Avery

Ilene set the casserole on the crowded counter. Marge handed a beer from the twelve-pack they’d also brought to Nick where he sat with his leg, in a cast, propped on a heap of dirty clothes.

“Jeezus, Nick. Your house smells.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Like putrefaction,” Ilene said, picking her way to a chair. She set its stack of magazines on the floor.

“Shoe’s on the other foot now, Ilene,” Nick said, ignoring her comment. “Wanna know how I broke my leg?”

“No, I don’t, Nick.”

“I slipped. On a banana peel.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. That one there,” he said pointing.

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Sense of Well At Home on the Range (Part I) by D. Avery

“Pal! Ya gotta hep me!”

“Jeez, Kid, why’re ya stumblin roun like thet?”

“Cain’t see. Was readin the latest collection. All them flashes was so dazzlin, it blinded me.”

“Least ya smell, Kid.”

“This ain’t a time ta be pickin on me Pal.”

“Mean ta say this prompt’s bout smellin, not seein.”

“I see.”

“Thought ya said ya couldn’t.”

“I cain’t, but with a little hep, mebbe I kin sniff out a story.”

“Ya got a nose fer it. Here, hang onta this leash. I harnessed Curly, yer seein-eye hog. Go where the hog leads. Smell ya later, Kid.”

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Sense of Well At Home on the Range (Part II) by D. Avery

Reckon you folks is thinkin Curly’ll lead Kid ta the cookhouse, full a good cookin smells. Or ta Ernie’s cabin, permeated by the sickly-sweet smell a his hemp harvest. Mebbe out ta the LeGumes’ ta sniff out a story. But Curly led Kid ta a high meadow overlookin the ranch, not thet Kid could look it over. No, Kid jist breathed deeply, smelled the grass, the aspen an pine… ya could say Kid stopped ta smell the roses. Then Kid fell asleep. Thet nap restored Kid’s sight! But from now on, Kid’ll wear shades whilst readin these brilliant collections.

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Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

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1 Comment

  1. Sue Spitulnik

    Oh, the smells of every day life. I’m sure each of us was able to smell each one and associate it with someone we know.

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