James Oldham’s Nose

It wasn’t by any means a large nose but it was dreadfully sensitive. It was set in a fact that was, likewise, normal enough but dreadfully sensitive. The young man that surrounded the too-sensitive nose was named James Oldham. The world was a charnel house and a pit of sulphur to him, odorous and foul. It wasn’t that normal scents were stronger, but, like the ears of a cat or the eyes of an eagle, his nose worked on a wider than human spectrum. Odors that the normal person wouldn’t detect, wouldn’t even consider as detectable, the smell of sanctity, say, or the wintery scent of justice, surrounded him constantly. He smelled the world, the people around him, the voices, the shapes, and the relationships. He was, objectively, both blind and deaf, never having developed those senses. His nose told him everything.

Spring was a trial beyond all measure for Oldham. The profusion of life swamped him, the riot of breeding and sprouting and warmth and color. He became a recluse when the turning earth drew forth the buried and the hibernal, lived in his unfurnished rooms when other young men found hands to hold and shoulders to squeeze and lips to kiss. Affection was a strong smell, penetrant, and, in the gentle vernal months, unavoidable. He grew to loathe it, simply because it was unavoidable. His senstive nose made him an artist, for in the mixing of paints — strong, clean, chemical smells — and their application — a faint odor, creativity, pleasant and shy — he found respite and solitude. He took on several assistants, but fired them, without ever an explanation, when his watchful nose caught the beginning of that smell that he found so intolerable.

It was rather a lonely life, but it suited James, and he wished for nothing more.