The Incense Salesman
And the Wind Continues to Blow
Two Incense Burners
After eating his daily breakfast of six scrambled eggs – no cheese, no salt or pepper, no herbs; just eggs, as Gill is an eggy boy if ever there were one – Gill washes the dishes and proceeds to the couch to watch some television. The morning cartoons have all come and gone, much to his disappointment; it’s at this point that Gill finally checks the clock and sees that it’s a quarter past noon. He really must have slept in today.
‘I wonder if the mail was delivered yet,’ he thinks to himself. Suddenly, as if on cue, Gill hears the rumble of the delivery truck laboriously making its way up Barnstatter. He foots it to the door, belching along the way and catching a hit of eggbreath that makes him stop and retch, which is good. Bill Milligan has gotten many complaints from the mail truck drivers about Gill running out and meeting them at the mailbox; it isn’t that the drivers don’t like Gill, it’s just that the eggy boy always tries to hop into the back of the trucks when the drivers aren’t looking. He even made it all the way back to the post office one time, what a travesty that was.
But today, Gill has no plans to attempt an escape from his life in Treeburg. The light of success is shining over the horizon and Gill is just about ready to catch those lovely rays – just about, that is, because he knows the free samples won’t arrive today. They can’t, he just sent the message to Smells a few moments ago, it would be downright nonsensical – no, downright dreamlike if they arrived. But still, he’s excited to get the mail, so Gill waits with the top of his head peeking through the window of his front door lookin’ like Kilroy anytime the graffiti was here.
The driver peers over to the house and locks eyes with Gill. After stuffing a pile of envelopes into the mailbox with blinding speeds, he stomps on the gas and zooms off in a storm of brown clouds and flying rocks. When the dust settles, Gill heads outside.
The sun is shining bright and Gill has to squint his eyes into a horizontal slit avoid burning his corneas. Only seeing a fraction of what he needs to, Gill stumbles and falls all the way across his now rocky front lawn and scrapes both his knees and elbows on the sorry excuse for a road in front of his house. Upon opening the mailbox, however, all the pain leaves his mind – behind the bills addressed to Bill, there is a small package addressed to Gill, or more specifically, Gill Bottles. Leaving the letters in the box, Gill takes his package (upon which no return address is scrawled) up to his bedroom and locks the door behind him, just in case the burglar comes back.
Gill tears the top off the package and dumps its contents onto his floor, then crumples it up and tosses it in the general direction of his garbage can. As he bends down to pick up his winnings, the towel he threw down to soak up the spilled water catches Gill’s eye, and he ignores it. Laying on his floor are two incense burners, stained wooden disks with carved pieces of soapstone in their centers. Both the stones are a pale, pea smoothie green, both have flower petals carved around a shallow cylindrical depression in their centers, and one has a dark streak running through it.
There are also two little boxes of incense cones – one reading Romantic Rose that bears a picture of a heart made of roses, and one called Wicked which shows a picture of a woman with long black hair wearing nothing but shiny black thigh-height stockings, a shiny black bikini top and bottom, a shiny pair of black gloves that come up almost to her armpits, and a cat mask. A black cat mask. Dangling from the woman’s right hand is a long, golden whip. Drooling a little bit, Gill strokes the image of the woman with the index finger of his right hand, then immediately smells his finger. Then he licks his finger, and then he takes a deep breath and tries to get a hold of himself.
Succeeding, Gill notices there’s also a little slip of paper that came with the free sample. He assumes it’s a form to order more incense products, but upon unfolding it, our eggy boy realizes it’s just a measly handwritten note from the proprietor of Smells Inc. Gill crumples the note without reading it, as he’s never been one to read into things, uncrumples the packaging, stuffs the crumpled note into the uncrumpled packaging, and then throws the repacked packaging (which he crumples back up) into the garbage. Then, he busts open the incense boxes.
Much to his dismay, each box only contains one single cone. ‘Sure is a free sample, all right,’ he thinks to himself. Deciding to save the Wicked incense for tonight’s Gill Time session, Gill pops the Romantic Rose cone into one of the burners – the one without the dark streak, by chance – and then runs downstairs to fetch his Father’s trigger-action match-shaped grill lighter. He comes back to see that nothing has changed, and after taking a breath of relief to signify the fact that the burglar hadn’t broken in when he was gone, Gill lights the cone. The tip ignites and burns rather quickly, releasing plumes of gray smoke into the enclosed airspace of his bedroom, and he takes a big whiff which pulls all the blood out of his head and sends him plummeting into unconsciousness. As he falls down, Gill generates a small gust of air which extinguishes the flame, which is good for Gill, because otherwise, the house would have likely burned down. And then the burglar would have nowhere to hit a second time.
Gill wakes up on his side a few minutes later. He sits up to see the incense cone is no longer spurting its flames, although it’s not much of a cone anymore. Only the bottom third of thing remains, but it’s smoking nice and good and his room irrefutably smells of Romantic Rose. Gill takes another big whiff of the hazy air, being careful to sniff it rather than snort it this time, and he leans back on his carpet with his hands folded behind his head to bask in the aromatherapeutic pleasantness.
And that’s when he sees the djinn.
Looming from the smoke is a thick green stem lined with rows of razor-sharp thorns tipped in a red deeper than the color of blood. Two jade leaves sprout from either side of the apparition, and at the end of the stem bursts trillions of crimson petals, each of them actively wavering and unfolding to reveal the magic which lies at the center of the floral mass. The stem bends towards Gill and his eyes water as he sees what lies in the center – nothingness, a pure absence of things, the most beautiful and glorious sight Gill has ever laid his virgin eyes on. It speaks to him, the voice booming in his mind like the shifting of tectonic plates.
‘Gill Milligan, you have lit the incense cone and awoken me. In order to return to the garden, I must grant you a wish. Choose your words wisely, as they will cost you dearly, but not in the way you may presume.’
Gill tuned the rose out after it whispered I must grant you a wish into his mind. He thinks about it for a moment, he considers his entire life – his relationship with his Father Bill, his Buyify business and the negative cash flow it brings in, all the goals and accomplishments he’s yet to accomplish – and smiles, again, two separate smiles in one day. Gill then opens his mouth and says the following:
“I wish for romance, flower genie. I wish for the woman of my dreams.”
The rose lunges at him. Gill is blinded by the light of its core.
Then, as if he just blinked, Gill wakes up on his side. Feeling dazed, more so than when he got up this morning, Gill sits himself up and rubs his eyes until it burns to touch the lids. ‘I must have been dreaming,’ he thinks, then proceeds to curse himself out for a few minutes. The flow of expletives comes to a screeching halt, however, when he looks at his carpet and sees the large black soot stain, as if the incense he lit had burned all the way out, taking the burner with it, soapstone and all.
After picking up the remaining burner – the one with the dark streak running through it – and the Wicked box and throwing them into his pillowcase for safe keeping, Gill runs into the hall and gets the vacuum. He’s afraid the stain won’t come up, terrified in fact, for when his Father sees it Gill will surely catch the meanest of looks, but it comes right up without fuss. It’s like it was never even there.
Gill goes back to the hall closet and stores the vacuum away. On his way back to his bedroom to have an early Gill Time sesh (as the idea of the woman of his dreams has not left his mind), Gill hears a bare knuckle banging against the wood of his front door.
Hello Commons, this has been the fifth subchapter of the eighth story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
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Be well Commons~