On writing

Another automatic stereotype – the house that smells

We cooked lamb roast last night.  As it cooked the scent of the meat and fresh spices wafted around the house, making our mouths water and our stomachs gurgle in anticipation, so that we could hardly wait for dinner.

This morning it was a different story.

The house smells of old meat, of fat, and of brussel sprouts (one of the vegetables we served with the roast) and it’s not at all pleasant.

When this happens we do what most people do, I imagine.  Open the windows and doors, ensure everything is as clean and degreased as it can be, spray air freshener around and wait for the smell to go away.

As I sprayed I couldn’t help but wonder—if someone wrote about my house as it was this morning, in a book, what would they write?

Detective Anders leaned on the doorbell until a woman finally unlocked the door.  She peered out between the door and the chain with one washed-out-blue eye.

I know, she’s a stereotype already, but you don’t get ‘nice’ or attractive people in smelly houses, do you.

“What do you want?” she demanded.

Anders showed her his badge, then waited an interminable age while she unclipped the chain and allowed him in.  Up close she was middle-aged, short but stout, easily half as wide around as she was tall.  Her severely-cut hair was a greasy grey bowl, while her body sagged under her own weight, her jowls seemingly pulled down by gravity.  She turned and stumped her way along the passage to the kitchen.  Anders followed.

The house smelled of fat and old meat, and of boiled cabbages.

I don’t know why, but in the books where a house smells of boiled cabbages, or any cooking smells for that matter, you always know the woman is a slatternly good-for-nothing, a mean landlady, or just generally unpleasant.  She is seldom criminal, just never nice.

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