Scented Letters in the Sand – A Flash Fiction

He remembered her taste. Vanilla, mostly, with a little hint of cinnamon. It was in – no, it was her lips, her tongue, her skin.

At Basic training, the drill sergeants yelled at him, arms burning from the repeated pushups, but he could taste a hint of vanilla, and smiled. The road marches were long, burning calves and turning thigh muscles into water, but he could smell the cinnamon from her letters. The C-130 was crowded, kevlars rolling back and forth between their feet as they flew, but over the stench of soldiers, he remembered the feel of her lips, the dessert smells of vanilla and cinnamon, and relaxed back into his seat.

The last letter, his first one incountry, was unscented, from her parents. They were very sorry, but felt it important that he know. E-mails and calls would have been faster, but a letter seemed more appropriate. It was strange, roasting in the desert heat and hearing that cold had killed her. It had been quick; the semi had lost control on the ice, and her car had crumpled.

The sand stunk, made worse by the diesel fumes and gun oil stench. The door bust in under his boot, opening out rooms that reeked of incense and spices. His squad leader screamed for him to get down, but the sulfur gunpowder smell hit him seconds after the bullets. They ripped through blood vessels not covered by the massive bullk of the vest. He crashed to the ground while his squad took out the gunman.

As they tried to staunch his bleeding (hot iron hemoglobin stink overlaying the sulfur), he grabbed his squad leader’s arm.

“Sarge,” he said, as he closed his eyes, “can you smell it? It smells so beautiful.”

For a brief moment, the sergeant caught a whiff of vanilla, with just a hint of cinnamon.