“Pride. The scent por butch, pour femme, pour non-binaire.”
It stank like bed-sweat, months after requiring a change of sheets, but with a gentle lilt of ripe apples after a summer rain. The tart musk hit like a curse, but the immediate familiarity of it pulled him in deeper. He inhaled desperately to keep chasing that soft bitter-sweetness beneath, as though burying his face into the pillow of a departed lover.
“So, are you interested in a bottle? Limited-time offer, only thirty-five pounds for thirty mil, while stocks last.”
“Oh, no. No, no, thank’e. I’m looking for somethin’ a little less… affectin’.”
“I see, I see. Well, if you’re after something a little lighter, how about this?”
The rainbow-ribboned bottle was returned under the counter, and a pearlescent vial in the rough shape of a feather was produced.
“Tickle. Pour homme, pour hehe, pamplemousse.”
At first he assumed that the nozzle had mis-fired; the mist that ghosted in the air was cool, but not at all odorous. Then it began, a slight peppery sensation. Like microscopic bubbles growing and popping throughout his sinuses, each one threatening to burn like acid, but instead releasing an icy pulse of nectar-sweet delight. The initial barrage was gone all too soon, but left a lingering taste of saccharine peppermint on the roof of his palate.
“Fancy that, sir? Limited-time offer, only sixty-two pounds for forty mil, while stocks last.”
“Gracious! Um, no. No, thank’e. That were a little too… sugary.”
“I see, I see. Well, I have just the thing for the mature, discerning gentleman.”
Ducking again below the counter, the server resurfaced with a lumpy emerald flask, whose body was netted with lines of gold and brass.
“Reptile. Pour tortue, pour sang-froid, pour de mauvais choix.”
His nostrils nearly closed from the stench-wall that hit him. A combination of oils, soils, and damp were present, along with myriad other twisting and rattling odours. He closed his eyes from the impact, and followed the forceful genesis into the more familiar middle notes. He imagined himself at the door of a refrigerator, opening it suddenly to discover an inadequately chilled mire of moss and mould within.
“It… it’s perfect.”
“Wonderful, wonderful! And currently in a limited-time offer, only forty-five pounds for twenty-eight mil, while stocks last.”
He returned home with an enormous smile on his face, and a faint trail in the air behind him.
“Bernard? ‘Zat you?”
“‘Tis, Bess. Norm with you?”
“‘E is, Bern. Been under the cabinet since you left.”
Bernard removed the perfume from its wee plastic bag, and unsheathed it from its jungle-camo box. He twisted the cap, as instructed, and the meerkat nozzle peeked up with interest.
“Bernard? You comin’ in?”
A spurt to the chest, a few down each arm, several to the legs and shins, and one final misguided puff to the face. Soil, rattle, moss.
“Should about do it. Comin’, Bess. ‘E’s bound to come out now.”
The aroma followed him past the empty terrarium and into the kitchen. After giving Bess a placating nod, Bernard carefully lowered himself to his knees, and then gruntingly onto his belly.
“Oh, Bern, ye do smell peculiar. Be careful now; can’t be doin’ with him bitin’ you again!”
He spied the sullen old iguana in the darkness through the cabinet’s gadrooned skirting.
“Y’right there, Norman, my love? ‘Ow’d you like me now?”