D elbert P. Axelrod, better known as Stinkfoot, came struggling through the doors of Doreen’s 24 HR Eat Gas Now Cafe with his arms around a large cardboard box. None of the Hunting Club members moved a muscle from our large corner table.
For the first in a long time, the cafe was empty except for us. It may have been the wind, or the blowing rain, or the hour. Ten in the morning is usually busy, but the cafe seemed strange and even dark on the other side, even though the lights were on as usual.
“Thanks for your help.” Delbert dropped the heavy box on the table, jolting our coffee cups. A clatter of glass sounded like something inside broke.
“You’re welcome.” Doc plucked a napkin from the holder and soaked up spilled coffee.
“There better not be anything alive in that box!” Doreen called from behind the counter. It was a good thing there weren’t many customers, because the coffee maker was on the fritz. It overheated after one or two cups and shut off. Then she had to stand there and push the on button over and over again until it came back on. Her frustration level was about to exceed her medication dosage.
“Don’t worry.” Delbert reached inside and drew out a squatty jar. “These are candles.”
I peered into the box. “You doing a fundraiser?”
“Nope. I was on vacation down in Fredericksburg a couple of weeks ago and went into this candle shop.”
Wrong Willie had a valid question. “How many did you break?”
“Only three, but they shouldn’t have stacked them where they were. Anyway, I was sniffing their candles and…”
Jerry Wayne snorted. “I get this picture of you sticking your nose in places it shouldn’t be.”
“That’s what gave me the idea. I was sniffing a candle called Country Morning and it didn’t smell anything like a country morning.” He reached into the box, checked a couple of labels, and came out with a jar. “That’s when I decided to start my own line of candles. This is what a country morning smells like.”
Doc took the jar, pulled off the top and took a big sniff. He recoiled as if someone stuck a hot coal up his nose. “Jeeze! This smells like…”
I took the jar and gave it a careful sniff. “A feedlot, or a barn. Did you put cow flop in here?”
“A little, but it was dried. See, that’s what a country morning smells like. The people that invent these candles make up names without knowing the truth. My new line will be called Truth Candles.”
Doreen came by with the coffee pot. “One of you guys needs to go outside and scrape your foot. You stepped in cow mess, and I don’t want any customers to have to smell your stinkin’ feet.” She went back to aggravate the coffee pot some more.
“Try this one.” Delbert selected a jar that was suspiciously dark. “This one is called Autumn.”
It was my turn to sniff something. “I don’t get anything.”
“You have to burn that one for the effect.” He dug a lighter out of his pocket and lit the wick. It burned fitfully for a second, and then the entire interior of the jar burst into flame. That’s when I realized he’d mixed twigs and leaves in with the wax. I quickly slapped the lid on top to choke it down as a billow of smoke filled the room.
It really did smell like an autumn leaf fire, except the sides of the jar were already hot.
“I need to work on that one,” he said. “I have others. I think these will appeal to men more than women. How about this one?”
Doc took a careful sniff and smiled. “Scotch.”
“Yep, twelve-year-old Glenlivit. It’s from the bottle you left in the camper a couple of weeks ago.”
“Hey, it was almost full.”
“Not anymore. There’s some left.”
“Try this one.”
“What is it?” Jerry Wayne asked.
“Grandma’s Sewing Room.”
“It smells like old clothes, and old cloth.”
“That’s what her sewing room smelled like.”
“What did you put in here?”
“You don’t want to know.”
I took another jar out of the box. “What’s this?”
I put it back, unopened.
Delbert found another. “This one’s my favorite.”
“Name?” I was learning.
The wax was dark, and a label covered the contents. Delbert placed the candle on the table and lit the wooden wick. We were immediately engulfed in a scent that relaxed us all. It filled the air with a blend of mesquite smoke, grass, dogs, gun oil, animal musk, and somehow, clean air.
Doreen came back with the coffee pot. “Y’all smell like you’ve been out all day. Delbert, get those nasty candles out of here. I’m not buying any of them.”
She didn’t, but we all went home with his Hunting Trip candle.
I figure he’ll make a million on that one alone.
Email Reavis Wortham at [email protected]