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Exotic Perfume

by Thomas Wolfson,
Copyright 2004

Led by your odour to enchanting climes,
I see a port all filled with sails
and masts that ache still from the briny wave

from Parfum Exotique
Charles Baudelaire

Brutus, a yellow lab, lay placidly on the deck of my father’s bungalow, unleashed and sniffing the sea breeze. Since he was fixed, we all felt calmer. Before, when he would take off, we would worry ourselves sick. Perhaps he’d be hit in traffic or mistaken for a deer in hunting season. Now, without keeping a watchful eye, we could enjoy the morning sun, the heather turning purple in the marsh below, a sail on the shimmering waters of Wellfleet Bay in the distance.
“I’m rather liking that dog this time,” my eighty year old father said, puffing on his cigar and turning the page of his Cape Cod Times.
“He seems different. Not under my feet. Not whacking things over with his tail.”
“He is different. We had him fixed,” I said.
“Whose idea was that?”
“Kate’s. Well, actually, the vet’s. She said at his age it would prevent the likelihood of prostate cancer and keep him from roaming.”
“She said?”
“Yeah, the vet’s a woman.”
“All women are ball cutters.”
“Pop Pop!” Grace shouted to her grandfather, running up the driveway from the summer cottage in the hollow below. “I want to have coffeecake with you!”
Kate, too, arrived at the top of the driveway and paused briefly to admire the view.
“Come along then. I saved you a piece,” my father said.
Grace scampered up the steps, crossed the bridge over the lap pool, kissed my father, and took her cake.
“Good morning!” Kate called out from the sandy parking area. “It’s such a beautiful day. I hate to leave,” she said, feigning disappointment.
“I don’t want to go, Mama.”
“I know, honey, but you’re starting school back in New Hampshire and Daddy starts teaching again in a few days. We’re all packed and the windows are covered up with newspaper. All you have to do, Leon, is drain the pipes.” She climbed the steps and onto the deck.
“Here comes the ball cutter,” my father announced
“He means the dog,” I said.
“Oh, Vincent, really,” she said with a deflective chuckle. “He is better, don’t you think?”
“Ball cutter. All women are ball cutters,” he repeated, pleased with the ring of his latest pronouncement.
“Well, then, if all women are ball cutters, what does that make all men?” she asked, settling into a folding aluminium chair.
My father momentarily reflected while puffing on his cigar, then said – “Cunt lickers.”