by Matthew Sanborn Smith
Troy spent the days in the library, in a squared off chair of wood and yellow vinyl, driving himself insane. The place smelled dusty and the old air was thicker than outside, but things were a little better here in periodicals. His resident spot was in view of a plastic bust of Poe alongside the yellowing microfiche machine.
Josie had let him in and he was first through the door. Troy's torn and patchy backpack played its role as place keeper at his seat while he set to work. Out came his crumpled handwritten list.
"Bon Appetit, Apr. 2010, page 77." The issue had made its way onto the archive shelves, which saddened him. It was old and losing its scent. He flipped through the issue and found the ad he wanted. It wasn't even a food ad. It was an ad for a convection oven. But the oven baked cookies. Chocolate chip. Troy held the magazine away from him for a moment, took a big whiff of stale library air and let it out slowly. Then he buried his head in the issue and inhaled through his nose. There it was. It grew faint and this might be the last day he left the magazine on his list, but for right now, he caught the melty, oily aroma of the chocolate seeping into the still softish dough. "Jesus," he whispered. It was better than porn.
"O Magazine, Jan. 2011, page 133." This one was still on the stand. McDonald's french fries. Hot and greasy and salty. He remembered how the bag felt when they came right out of the deep fry, the paper the only thing between him and a first degree burn. He took another smell and tried had to remember it for later. Josie walked by and Troy acted like he was reading the ad. She knew and he knew but he couldn't bring himself to indulge right there in front of her.
His cruddy fingernail ran down the list. He wanted to save the best one for just before breakfast.
"Ladies' Home Journal, Nov. 2011, page 42." The picture was a dinner table set for a party, with a huge roast on a platter in front of an autumnal center piece of brown and orange. Troy's mouth watered just looking at it. He sniffed hard and loud like his cousin Lena used to snort coke. It all rushed in: Sunday dinner at his mother's house on Long Island, the steaming, juicy roast, and the margarine on the mashed potatoes. Even the peas smelled good and he didn't used to like peas but he hadn't tasted anything like his mother's cooking since he left home twenty-odd years ago. Troy's eyes were wet. He concentrated and snorted again.
He put the magazine back and grabbed his pack and headed for the door. Not too fast, otherwise they might think you took something.
On the library steps, over by the skinny bare trees, he sat and opened the his can of tuna. It was an old high-mercury albacore they couldn't sell in the grocery stores anymore, but you could still get them at the shelters.
He thought about the roast. Troy put himself back in the library just two minutes before and felt the magazine in his hands and he remembered. He really remembered until his mouth watered once more. He shut his eyes tight and scooped the tuna into his mouth and he brought back the smell and maybe even the taste of that roast just like his mother's Sunday dinners when he was a kid.
Christ, he thought, the cold wind a million miles away, What could be better than this?