The freight train is moving east across 15th.
Its warning horn blends with the breeze in the newly leafing trees, and a scent wafts through that spins me into the deep past.
We are in the late 1960’s. I am a child. It is Dad’s day off from the barbershop, where he works cutting hair; Mum is outside, on her knees, putting in the red geraniums along the walkway leading to the front porch.
The black DeSoto is parked by the telephone pole. I scramble in, and Dad takes me with him down Parade Street, windows wide open. We stop at the tracks at 15th, to wait for the train. I look across at the feed store, and inhale deeply the mixture of grain, soil and soot. The sound of the train, the smell, the look. I watch each car fly by. When the caboose disappears, the sun brightens ahead of us through the windshield. We cross the tracks, and move on.
Coasting further down to 5th, we turn right one block to get to the shop. He’s whistling.
Unlocking the front storm door, Dad lets me scamper in ahead. The old cigar ashes fill the air. He flicks on the black and white cabinet Tv, gathers his broom and dustpan, and begins to sweep the floor of cut hair residue. I sit on the bouncy vinyl chair cushion and run my hands along the smoothe, tubular, nickel plated arm rests. I look at the tall pedestal ash trays, filled with grey mounds the size of cremated remains.
Worn magazines are piled on the small tables, Sports Illustrated, Mechanics Illustrated, men’s magazines, the pages all slippery, the pictures all black and angular and strange. I look for the pretty girl in the bathing suit.
The faces on the Tv are talking. Their voices have a buzz in them, not like people sound in real life. I watch my father sweep the floor, swinging my legs over the side of the puffy vinyl chair.
He’s all done. Walking past me into the back room, he gathers all the soiled towels to take home for Mum to wash. I run back quickly to use the rusty toilet. I smell the must, and stare around at the manly grunge.
We head back up Wallace, then over to Ash. We pass Peterman’s Market, the old Russian church. We turn right at Ash, and head up the slight hill under the overpass. The train is long gone, but we can still smell it. Dad toots his car horn under the pass, and the sound is loud and grande. We both laugh. The sun is still bright as we pass the Polish Falcons and then the corner store.
Soon, we are home. Mum looks up and smiles as we pull in the drive. Dad gets out of the car and walks up to her, jingling the change in his pants pocket.
There will be rigatonis for supper.
The freight continues its trek east toward the New York State line, moaning its horn the whole way. And, I inhale again, reaching from down in the pockets of my lungs for that last remnant of the scent of nickel.
.© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
5/12/15 All rights reserved. Thank you for the daytrip.
3 thoughts on “The Scent of Nickel.”
R.A. I remember a great movie titled: “The Scent of a Woman”, but never saw “The Scent of Nickel”! Mayhaps you misspelled “cent” and it is a metallurigicall documentary! please get back to me on this.
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I’ll leave the docs on loose change to you, L.A. 😉 (but, didn’t you just give me a final, if cheesy, metaphor for the edit, you dawg.)
Thanks for the Likes, PG and M!