By Rich H. Kenney, Jr.
I smell like molasses. That’s what Felice used to tell me, the only woman who ever believed in my scent. She also believed in hurricanes.
We met in a bar on Cape Cod. I poured; she served. She liked to drink sea breeze cocktails—ones she served to customers. She’d sneak a sip here and there when she thought no one was watching, but I’d see her. Once, she saw me see her and winked. I fell in love. Later that night, she told me that in another life she was a hurricane, and I believed her.
Felice believed in reincarnation, but instead of coming back as a human, animal, or vegetable, she believed certain souls came back as disasters. Like hurricanes.
“I am devastation,” she used to tell me. “I toss mobile homes like a first-string quarterback and kick bales of hay like the point-after guy. Blaise says this is my last life. He says that nirvana is just around the corner, and that I shall go as I came. In a hurricane.”
Felice often talked about Blaise, who claimed to be a Swiss Alps avalanche in another life. He ran a Friday night support group for those who believed they were disasters in prior lives. In a laying-on-of-hands ceremony, Blaise determined who was, or was not, a catastrophe in their previous life.
In our days together, Felice never let go of the molasses conundrum. One night, she came into the bar bursting with news. “Look,” she said, handing me a copy of an old news clipping. She began to read: “There was no escape from the wave. Running in it was impossible. To attempt to wipe it with hands was to make it worse. Most of those who died, died from suffocation. It plugged nostrils almost airtight.”
“What’s this all about?” I asked.
“This is about you. And your smell,” she said. “The Great Molasses Flood of 1919. It was you. You’re one of us.”
I looked at the photograph Felice was holding. It showed a street on the Boston waterfront flooded with molasses from a ruptured storage tank. “Twenty-one people died or drowned in a brown wave of sugar cane,” I read aloud.
“It’s time to see Blaise,” Felice said. I picked up a rag and wiped away a puddle of dark beer.
At the disaster-detecting ritual, I was circled by desperate souls. They were supposedly mud slides, cyclones, and tidal waves. When Blaise approached, he placed his hands upon my shoulders. He stared. I smirked. He fell to the ground in a fabricated body spasm, his practiced eye-twitch that of a cunning Cyclops. When the flipping and flopping stopped, Blaise arose, towering above me. The deity of disasters frowned and said in a disparaging tone, “You may have been a small brush fire. Nothing more than a smoky annoyance.”
I miss Felice. I think about her mostly during hurricane season but, at the same time, keep an eye out for bales of hay.