her shampoo – Douglas Austin


            I can smell the ocean, sighed the girl.

            What do you mean? asked her lover. The ocean? They were near downtown. Hours from the beach.

            Hot dogs, she said, and explained, it was the last time I saw Uncle Mike. He wore board shorts, and grilled hot dogs, the sun reflecting off his sunglasses. A hot dog stand stood nearby. The red plastic letters that spelled "Elmos Hot Dogs," hummed with their electric bulbs. The dogs turning on their spits glistened with hot immediacy.

            Her lover smiled, and placed his arms around her body. Hed heard how smell is the most powerful spark to ignite the memory. Scientists had proven it. Can I smell you? He asked, and laughed.

            Of course. She smiled up at him.

            He curled his fingers into her thick hair, and breathed in the mango of her shampoo. I must not be doing it right.

            Its not so hard, she encouraged him. What is it?

            Its just, you smell like CVS. I pass you on my way to the toothpaste.

            She considered this. I could switch shampoos. I liked this one. Together they watched the sun squat down behind the buildings, while the man at the hot dog stand counted through a stack of wrinkled bills.

            We are the products of our environment, I suppose, said her lover.

            She shook her head. Not anymore. Now we are the products of our products.

            Soon, they went to dinner, and over wine from dark old grapes, he proposed to her. And they made love in a vacant lot, among the hard weeds, and when he dropped his gasping mouth by her ear, her hair smelled like broken leaves and smeared clover.