“Hello there, Sampson,” Carson greeted me, grinning broadly as he ushered me inside.
“Sammy, please,” I responded automatically. I was talking on autopilot. The rest of my brain was busy trying to absorb him through my nose. It was unbelievable.
By this point, smell was an integral part of who a person was. I could recognize most of my mechanics who worked for me before they even entered the room, just from their odor. Terry was very earthy, mainly from his work with farm equipment. Calvin dealt with small motors, so he always had that hint of oil. Bob was a deft hand with plumbing… let’s just say that I preferred to eat lunch at the opposite end of the room from Bob.
But Carson’s smell was unlike anything else, anyone else. Aside from a slight hint of flowers, it was, well, absent. He was a man who didn’t smell. It felt like an impossibility. But no matter how my nostrils strained, I just couldn’t pick anything up.
“Ah, so you’ve noticed!” Carson commented, watching with a smile as my nostrils flared. “Yes, it’s quite unique. And that’s why I invited you here.”
My brain finally managed to catch up with my nose. “You don’t smell!” I commented, rather stupidly. Okay, maybe my brain hadn’t caught up all the way.
“No,” Carson responded, “I don’t. And I want to show you why.”
As I stared at him, Carson closed the door behind me. For a moment, we were in pitch blackness. And then I heard the click of a light switch, and the room was illuminated.
We were standing in a large warehouse, surrounded by shelves holding large cardboard boxes. Carson reached out and pulled the nearest one off the shelf. “Do you know what these are?” he asked.
I shook my head, and the other man popped the box open. From inside, he withdrew a plastic tube, rather flattened, with a cap on one end and a little knob at the other. He popped off the cap, twisted the knob a few times, and a white rubbery substance began to rise up from inside the tube. “This,” Carson revealed, “is my secret.”
He held it out to me, in front of my nose, and I took a sniff. Sure enough, it had that same faint scent as Carson. “What is it?” I asked.
Carson grinned. “Deodorant!”
We talked a bit longer there, Carson still holding that tube. It turns out that he had purchased this whole warehouse at a steal, as it was rumored to be near a hot zone and possibly contaminated. That rumor proved to be false, but the deodorant had been a much greater find. Carson knew that I was a gifted tinkerer, and he wanted me to try and reproduce the formula of this substance, to try and make more.
“I’ll do my best,” I promised, “but no guarantees.”
Carson looped an arm around my shoulders. “Just think of it,” he said, spreading out his other arm in front of us. “If we can sell this stuff, no one will smell any more! We’ll put those rubber scraper folks out of business in weeks.”
As I walked home that evening, holding the two tubes that Carson had given me as a gift, my thoughts were a jumble of ideas and disbelief. I had to keep on uncapping one of the tubes and sniffing it to convince myself that this meeting had actually happened. It was unbelievable.
A world where people didn’t smell. It was almost too much to believe.