Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Smell (the sense of smell) (07/29/10)
TITLE: Mary Ellen
By Ivy Strader
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She did not, for example, remember the time Mrs. Figgis across the street collapsed and an ambulance and three police cars arrived at 2:30 AM to take her away. Nor had she awoken the night the couple next door left their four dogs to howl continuously for three hours, punctuated by the screams of frustrated neighbors. So when she woke up in the dead darkness one cold Sunday night, not a sound in the house and the blackness complete around her, she knew there was something wrong.
Mary Ellen was warm and sleepy, but felt a little unwell, and decided to get a glass of water. After struggling her way out of the voluminous bedclothes, she hefted her plump frame to a sitting position and pushed her dark curls away from her face. An odd smell made its way to Mary Ellen's nose – something she couldn't identify but immediately disliked. She sniffed deeply, but it was gone, so she stood up and yawned hugely before tottering to the bathroom with the zombie-like stride of one who's mostly asleep.
Mary Ellen spent a minute staring into the mirror before remembering her errand and filling her glass. She caught a whiff of the odd smell again as she drank. It smelled vaguely wrong, chemical-y, rotten.
Mary Ellen's tired brain was not working at its full potential, but she slowly wondered if her sister-in-law Sara had let something rot in the kitchen. It wouldn't be the first time. Mary Ellen had a sensitive nose; Sara was oblivious to smells. Mary Ellen was always cleaning up after Sara and frequently resorted to hiding her perfumes when things got especially bad.
She finished her drink and began to amble towards the kitchen; the smell was certainly stronger in here. She did a quick visual sweep of the area. Nothing on the counters. The fridge, too, proved to be empty of rotting fruits and leftover meatloaves. The smell could be coming from outside, she realized, if there was a garbage truck accident of some sort... but no, the street was dark and silent and the air outside was much fresher than in. She turned back to the kitchen. It was really getting unpleasant now. She yawned deeply, decided that the mystery was unsolvable, and began to make her way back to bed. She could figure it out in the morning, whatever it was. She needed her beauty rest.
As she left the kitchen, the gas stove caught her eye. One of the dials was turned ever so slightly to the right.
Mary Ellen blinked.
She walked over to the stove and flipped the dial to the left.
As she headed back to bed, Mary Ellen didn't know that she'd single-handedly – almost single-fingeredly – saved the three residents of the house from a fiery death. She didn't know that if she hadn't been blessed with a sensitive nose, she, her brother, and her brother's wife would all have been meeting their Father a lot sooner than they'd expected. All she knew was that she was abominably tired and hoped she wouldn't wake up in the night again any time soon.
She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
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