The chimes on the clock made a exceptional sound when they rang, royal like church bells. That sort of vibrating, sustaining, something really important is happening kind of sound? A little spooky and a little inviting like going to meet your boyfriend's parents for the first time. I never liked my boyfriend's parents or their house. It always smelled like burnt toast. They're dead now. A car accident. Car caught on fire. Nobody ever figured out why.
My grandmother's clock had a glass door. A key was stuck in the lock. A rather small key I had never noticed before. I didn't spent that much time in the hall, too narrow for anything fun. I'd always head straight to the living room which smelled like puppies and sit on my grandmother's soft sofa. I liked to rub my hands up and down the fabric making patterns and hand prints with my mother. Except on this day my mother hurried past the couch to the room that held my grandmother's oversized bed. Grandma's room smelled like wrinkles and body lotion, so I avoided going in there. It sounded like my mother went straight to work fretting over a pillow or blanket or something else. I couldn't quite tell so I stayed quiet scrutinizing my mothers movements as I reached down for the key in the glass door. I was good at sneaky, slow movements, like slipping money from my stepfather's wallet or candy from a store counter, keeping an eye on the clerk and a smile on my face. I always keep a smile on my face even when I don't mean it. Like when I first met my boyfriend's parents and they looked at me like I was dirty or something. Hell, I take two showers a day and use essential oils.
I kept smelling something different things while reaching for that key, like cake or donuts. No croissants. I smelled croissants. Chocolate croissants. The real kind, like from Paris.
Anyway, I turned the key smelling lemon poppyseed muffins cooking in the clock and listened to my mother's movements and I knew I could do it. I could stop that hollow, metronome, ticking of my grandmother's persistent clock. So I did, opening the door, I reached in and held the chimes together tight like a daddy longlegs I'd caught in my bathroom shower, gripping them like a bundle of stems or uncooked spaghetti ready for the pot. Except this bundle felt fat and ice cold slippery in my hands. They fought me for a moment turning into wiggling liquid and wanting to drip away but I kept my suffocating clench.
I couldn't believe what happened next. A tiny mouse squeezed out from under the bottom of the clock just like in a child's nursery rhyme and stopped right in front of my shoes looking up at me, which surprised us both.
I could tell he also smelled someone cooking or baking or someone watering their garden. Cinnamon rolls maybe? His nose was twitching.
Anyway, I didn't scream or anything because my hands were full. Instead I heard my mother make this stifled scream/cry noise. It was soft and muted at first like she stuffed her face in the very pillow she was fretting over, which muffled her sounds, like during sex, but then the pillow must have slipped from her hands and dropped to the floor, because her crying grew and grew and grew, until the mouse starting running in quick little U-turns like he was stuck in an English roundabout in London. I don't care for London much myself; grey, grey, grey, grey, grey.
Anyway, my mom was wailing and trying to speak. It sounded like she was saying "Mamma? Mamma?" but I kept holding onto those slimy chimes and the mouse kept going in little circles and then the smell just . . . went away, that sweet smell of morning, like someone cares, gone.