Death Smells Like Bananas
by Carlos Orozco
Private Richardson’s body rested on the razor wire. His abdomen was splayed open, and his hands pressed against his stomach to prevent his entrails from falling out of the bleeding hole. All around him shrapnel and lead pierced men’s soft flesh, and the rifles and soldiers screamed in agony.
Private Richardson struggled to keep his eyelids open and his guts inside. His mind drifted to thoughts of death and all the dead things in his life. They all smelled like bananas. They had always smelled like bananas, ever since his first kitten that he’d smothered to death with inexperienced, violent love. Even then, the scent of bananas signified everything terrible in his life.
Richardson opened his eyes wide and saw the enemy climbing on the wooden sniper towers. This would give them a better vantage point, allowing them to pick off his company. Private Richardson tried to move off the razor wire and into the bush for safety, but his shifting only made his intestines begin to slip through his fingers. He stayed put.
His father’s passing was the worst. He wasn’t able to eat for days, and the smell of bananas clung to the bridge of his nose, like the traces of vomit that stick there after puking. He was fifteen then. His father was an alcoholic whose breath always reeked of whisky and shit. His father had downed a bottle of Jack and passed out on the sofa while Richardson sharpened a stick with a kitchen knife. He wouldn’t have noticed his father had died except for the reek of sickly-sweet overripe bananas filling the living room instead of the customary whisky and shit combination. At the hospital, the doctors pumped his dad’s stomach, but he knew it was too late. The smell never lied. As he exited the hospital he passed several rooms that emitted the same scent. He puked before he made it out of there.
The gunman in the tower nearest Richardson saw him moving. He didn’t know Private Richardson was as good as dead, so he cocked back the bolt on his rifle, readying death in the chamber.
Richardson saw the gunman point the rifle at him, and he was overtaken by dread. It was not a dread of death or of the pain that would come as the slug ripped through his flesh, but a dread of the smell. He felt bile rise in his throat at the thought of the smell.
The rifles retort rang in Richardson’s ears and the world was put on mute. Richardson saw the bullet inch toward him in slow motion. As it neared him it began expanding into a black rift. The edges of the rift were sharp and undulated like a cloak. When the rift was upon him he saw that it was a cloak. A pale yellow skull protruded from the black, and fear gripped him.
“Smell your breath,” Death commanded in a telepathic sort of way. Richardson shook his head. “Smell your breath,” it commanded once more, and stooped down placing its jaw bone next to his ear. Richardson removed a hand from his stomach and his intestines splashed on the floor.
He slowly raised the bloody hand to his face and sobbed. “Please no.”
“Smell your breath.” This time Richardson felt the mandible scrape his ear and the whisper crept into his heart and squeezed. He cupped his hand over his mouth and nose and exhaled hard, emptying his lungs. A citrus smell filled his nose.
Death’s jaw scraped Richardson’s ear again. “Orange you glad it doesn’t smell like banana.”