Like a Grove of Oranges

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There’s this man, and I don’t know, let’s say his name is Dean. Well, one day – let’s say, um, how about in the spring? Yes, the spring – one day in spring, like clockwork, Dean comes home from work. Upon walking into his home and calling out, ‘Hello, honey!’ to his wife, she promptly hollers back, ‘What is that smell, Dean?’

The man sniffs the air, his nose working hard.

‘It certainly isn’t dinner cooking. Or a delicious blueberry pie, for that matter,’ Dean says, and then he goes ha-ha-ha. A little too smug.

Did I mention it’s the ‘50s? Well, it is. I don’t know, it’s 1954.

So, Dean is giggling to himself like he has anything to giggle about. And his wife, she isn’t very pretty, I mean, she’s all right, but she isn’t great. And she pokes her head out from the bathroom and tells her idiot husband, ‘It smells like oranges, Dean.’

Again, the man smells the air around him and doesn’t pick up any abnormal scents.

‘I don’t know about that, darling,’ Dean responds slowly, articulating as if he is so much smarter than his wife.

She leaves the bathroom, walking down the hallway and steps into the kitchen, standing within feet of her husband.

Dean looks at his wife, dressed in a cleaning apron, a duster in hand.

‘Tidying up a bit, sweetie?’ he asks, even though he obviously doesn’t have to.

His wife smiles. ‘Just the bathroom.’ Cleaning up the mess Dean leaves behind every day. But, that’s okay, Dean – why would you ever clean up your own mess? It’s not like you live in the house, too, you useless lump.

She gazes around the kitchen. ‘You don’t smell that, Dean? It’s like the house is filled with oranges.’

The man just stares at his wife, that stupid smirk on his face. ‘I’m not sure you’re feeling well, darling. Why don’t you lay on the sofa?’

His wife sniffs from wall to wall, ceiling to floor, every crevice in every nook, and soon, strange as it is, she finds herself smelling her husband.

He gently pushes her away, as she continues to sniff, sniff, sniiiiiiff. ‘Please, honey, please. Enough. I’m sure I smell quite pleasant, but save the closeness for when we’re… intimate.’ Dean goes ha-ha-ha, the pompous moron.

‘It’s – it’s you,’ his wife stutters. ‘It’s like your suit is packed full of oranges.’ She eyes him oddly, looking her husband up and down. ‘What did you bathe in today, Dean?’

Dean drops his briefcase, smelling under his arms, down his collared shirt, trying to smell his nether regions. And then, as he stands straight, and truly examines the air with his compact nose, Dean finds it. The scent of oranges. A pile of oranges. A field of oranges. A countryside of oranges.

‘I smell like the world’s biggest orange grove,’ he whispers, perhaps to his wife, perhaps to himself.

His wife shrugs, cranes her neck. ‘I suppose it could be worse. You could smell like onions. Or garlic.’

Dean nods, but he is barely listening. He steps around his wife and heads for the bathroom.

The bathroom. This is where Dean spends much of his time over the next few weeks. Making every attempt to rid himself of this monstrous orange-scented body odor. He bathes himself in tomato sauce, showers in molasses, washes his hair with cottage cheese. But, the orange – oh, the orange! It never ceases to be.

At work, he is soon referred to as Orange Man. Not very clever, but it irks him all the same. Getting onto an elevator: What floor, Orange Man? Filing paperwork with accounts receivable: You got it, Orange Man! Using the toilet in the bathroom: No one makes it smell in here like you do, Orange Man!

After months of wandering through an orange-infused life, Dean slinks home from work, head held low, feet dragging behind him. He reaches home, opening the front door. And he is blasted with the scent of blueberries.

A pie, the man thinks. My wife is cheering me up with a pie. Dean finds himself actually smiling.

Feeling surprisingly content, Dean makes his way to the bedroom. He pushes open the door, and there is his wife, caught in the throes of passion. With another man. A man who smells of blueberry.

Well, I probably needn’t tell you that our main character lost it. Did he kill his wife and her blueberry lover? Sadly, yes. Dean did not feel as if he needed an explanation from his wife. Nor did he even want one.

The newspapers covering the case thought themselves quite witty when writing of Dean and the murder. The Blood Orange Killer they called him.

He was mostly kept in solitary confinement. Too many other prisoners complaining about having to smell him all day. As if the smell of a congested prison and not enough deodorant to go around was more desirable.

Daily, a lunch was delivered to Dean through a slot in his reinforced cell door. Typically some inedible form of meat and vegetables. With a piece of fruit on the side.

Through the slot, the encompassing winds of a far-off orange grove pouring out, a guard asked, ‘Whattaya want today, Dean? A banana? Grapes?’ The guard laughed. ‘Obviously not blueberries.’ Ha-ha-ha.

Dean watched him through the small opening. ‘Obviously not.’ He didn’t laugh, didn’t smile along.

Still, the guard laughed. ‘An orange? You want an orange?’

Dean’s eyes looked out.

‘No, no,’ the guard said. ‘You don’t want an orange. It’s an apple for you, Orange Man.’ He dropped a Granny Smith through the slot.

Sitting in his cell, a green apple crunching within his mouth, a man, oranges spilling from his pores. He remembers a time before oranges. A less ridiculous time. He’d laugh, he would, because none of this makes sense, but he cannot. Surely this is a curse, a nightmare, and surely he will wake up, and never have to remember the scent of oranges.

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4 Comments

  1. The wife should have just shoved Dean down the trash compactor. That’s what I do with orange peels. Oh wait. It was the 1950s. Not sure if they had in-sink compactors! It’s funny, in an uncanny/odd way (no pun intended), how illusions or delusions can motivate people to do many things. I could read so much into this story, and it would be both hugely true and shockingly false. I like this one, Sean. Has a bit of the ‘I have no mouth and I must scream’ vibe of inevitability to it, too. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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