What’s that smell?

Do you ever think about how much of your life is devoted to identifying smell? You walk in the kitchen after someone’s been cooking Brussels sprouts and ask, “What’s that smell?” You open the window early in the morning and wonder at the aroma of burning toast from some neighbor’s open window. You look for the source of phantom smells, like cigarette smoke, that don’t even exist in your house. You stick your nose in the washing machine to see if that vinegary smell comes out of it.

Do you smell that? What’s that smell?

Please use the open space below to share your first 50 words on the topic “what’s that smell?”


Author: Virginia DeBolt

Writer and teacher who writes blogs about web education, writing practice, and pop culture.

6 thoughts on “What’s that smell?”

  1. Smell. The one sense out of the five I never thought would be missed. But the experience and contact with our world that small provides warns us, teases us, disgusts us. Smell conjures up the presence of beauty and its opposite, alerts us to culinary delights or failures. Smells inspire poetry and support scientific experiments. And yet, it’s elusive. Millions of people have lost the sense of smell.
    “What’s that smell means absolutely nothing to them.” It’s great in the presence of an agitated skunk, but not so great when accepting fragrant flowers or in the vicinity of bodily harmful smells. I don’t know about you, but until I met up with people who no longer were able to smell, did I realize that the question “What’s that smell?” isn’t inconsequential. All five of our senses are important connectors in life experience. Decisions and actions follow directly from every one of them.

  2. “What’s that smell?” my mother and I both looked at my two year old nephew. His four year old sister, brushing a doll’s hair, casually announced, “James did a poop.”

    “James,” I asked my nephew, “did you do a poo?”

    “No,” he said, reaching back to grab his backside with both hands, “I farted.” And he scampered off as thought that would prevent anyone from changing his poopy diaper.

    “It’s your turn,” my mother said, “I got him last time.”

    “OK.” James is two, and he doesn’t just stay still nad have his diaper changed. You have to catch him first, and even then, it’s a feat of strength.

  3. What’s that smell?
    Damp basements, mold,
    rotting food,
    drying mud,
    smoke from campfires and grills
    as those who lost their homes in the flood
    make do the best they can.

    They camp in tents,
    wear boots all day,
    watch for snakes,
    tear down beloved homes,
    sweat and cry and curse and hug
    and clean mud, clean mud, clean mud.

    It’s the smell of daily life
    in the flooded communities of southeastern West Virginia,
    the smell of defiance and stubbornness.
    It’s the smell of courage,
    the smell of hope
    rising from the wreckage of hundreds of lives.

  4. Some one has left the stove on,
    Milk on the boil ,forgotten
    Boiled milk burnt and charred
    Flames smothered ,gone

    Gas leaks
    with a hiss
    charred milk
    smells sick

    What is that smell?
    perhaps all

  5. I was very anxious , nail biting to be exact as I forced myself into the dental chair. Oh how I hated dentists, a burden I carried since the age of 3 and now I was 33. This burly figure stood in the doorway as I looked him up and down I thought, he does have a kindly face. He looked at me intently and I began to shake all over. Pretty nervous huh, he said, I got just the thing. He walked over to the side table and lit what looked like a round candle. Within minutes the room was filled with this all pervasive soothing aroma. Like a miracle I began go relax. What is that smell? It is lavender and it works every time.

  6. “What’s that smell?” Yee Gads! There was a small very old neighborhood movie theatre in town. On Saturday afternoons all the kids would hustle on down to see the Three Stooges, black and white westerns, etc. That tells you how long ago it was. There weren’t many TV sets in homes just yet. As soon as we walked into the dark theatre we were assaulted by the aroma of popcorn. Of course we always bought a huge bucket to share; leaving each of us with some change for a chocolate bar. There was a feeling of excitement as we sat wiggling around in our seats for the first movie to show. As the film started to play out on the screen in front of us in the dark theatre a sudden shocking smell permeated the air. We had no clue as to what it could be. Finally, after asking here and there what it was, we were laughingly told that it was a “stink bomb” which some of the older teenage boys loved setting off in the theatre every now and then. Don’t ask what it was made of because we didn’t go as far as asking. As the female of the species, we didn’t really want to be involved in such an unladylike inquiry. We thought it was disgusting.

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