A Taste of Enchantment
As the man opens the refrigerator door the stench yanks his nose hairs and hurtles upwards to the backs of his eyeballs squeezing them like a nurse pumping on a blood-pressure gauge. He steps back, retreating from the assault on his olfactory nerve.
“Should have kept the facemask on all the way home from the airport,” he says.
He has come home. Three weeks ago, when he left, it was straight to a brief bedside vigil at his childhood home and then the inevitable funeral before returning.
Now the malodor fills his shoebox of an apartment containing a table, bed, cupboard, and what was a fridge but is now a living organism emitting warm air moist as a reptile room in a zoo.
Warm air? He tilts his head sideways, waves a hand inside the fridge to confirm. Yes, it’s broken.
He closes the door, walks the three steps required to get to the window, and opens it. Taking out his phone the man calls his landlady, a word he dislikes because “landlady” makes her sound old, but 30-something is not old, it’s his age. She inherited the building and the grocery store she runs on the ground floor.
The landlady promises to install a new fridge and he gives her permission to enter the apartment if he is not in.
Two days later, the man returns home from work to find a new fridge the size of an 80s TV set. He opens the door and the cold air strokes his face. Inside it’s empty, except for one thing. The fridge light shines on a small glass bowl like a halo. The bowl has dancing Minnie Mouse figures painted on it and is filled with mango chunks. He takes out the bowl and picks up a chunk between thumb and forefinger:
Appearance, waxed amber
He puts it in his mouth, closes his eyes, breathes in deep, pressing it between tongue and palate, then sucks. It tastes like enchantment.
He opens his eyes, exhales, and says: “I’ll have to return this bowl to her.”