It was the most unexpected of scents, and it lasted for the briefest of moments. It was at once tangy and virile: like the smell of a hard day’s work on a man before it turns sour, but there was also a sweetness to it. The smell of new death.
The ambiguity lasted but a tick within a second as he opened the door and then the deathly odour was gone. The ripening smell of a man who must soon shower remained. The source of these vapours was of course Ron, landscape gardener by day, well groomed sexual predator by night. Our protagonist took comfort in this later attribute as it meant that Ron was invariably showered, cologned and smartly turned out shortly after his return in anticipation of his nocturnal hunt.
Baz, our protagonist knocks politely and upon receiving permission opens the door to the bathroom where his friend and flatmate Ron is shaving whilst running a bath. Ron has a fresh and nasty looking lump, apparently still swelling, on the right side of his forehead. Baz cringes slightly at the sight of it then, inwardly amused at the probable implications of his flatmate’s punchy facial adornment ventures an observation:
“Ooh look at you Ron the don, did you finally catch up with one of your conquest’s boyfriends, or did you knock yourself with a frying pan trying to squash a fly?”
“Fuck off” Ron glances sideways at the mirror in uncharacteristic annoyance. “Almost killed myself on this rotten granite sink of yours this morning. I told you the corners were too sharp, and I told you the tiles you got for this floor are for walls, not floors. That’s why they are slippy. That’s why I look like an LAPD mugshot”.
“Alright, easy guy, did you slip or something?”
“Damned right I slipped” snapped Ron, although he was softening in the absence of an antagonistic opponent. Baz had known Ron since childhood and knew how best to avoid his temperamental moments. Only option was to roll over on your back smile like a dog and play second fiddle. As usual it worked.
Something about that afternoon irked Baz. The next day he returned to that memory of the sweet smell of death about the bathroom. The smell of dead Ron. As he returned time and again to this memory a his imagination began to construct a narrative: what if Ron’s slip upon the bathroom floor had proved fatal? he arose an hour later than Baz on week days as his work involved noisy tools in quiet suburban neighbourhoods, What if he had hit the granite on the weaker side of his head: his temple rather than his simian brow? To return to Ron’s corpse fermenting quickly in the moist atmosphere of the bathroom…
Baz found he could not grieve for this imaginary loss. It made him feel less human at first but he quickly decided that imaginary grieving was quite sufficient for an imaginary tragedy. Best not to think about it.
Working as an assistant in what was basically a fraudulent online auto parts shopfront, his imagination was contracted for these eight hours for the sole purpose of constructing enticing advertisements encouraging the purchase of his employer’s overpriced and often defective merchandise. So he pushed the thoughts of dead Ron out of his mind, rolled over on his back like a good dog (this time for his employer) and sang for his supper.
When his day was done, Baz returned home by the regular rout. He bought a bottle of Red Label at his habitual off license, bought a bottle of carbonated water from the pound shop around the corner, and narrowly avoided being hit by a large red bus whilst looking the wrong way as he crossed the road.
Upon arriving home, still startled from his close call with the buss and eager to deflower his whisky and soda, he shut the door, almost slamming it, with uncharacteristic vigour. In response to the retort of his violent entry he heard what could only be described as a mighty splash from the bathroom. Seconds later he saw water seep from under the door as curses erupted from within.
“The fuck is it? you faaaking… you best not be here when I get out this door…”
The bathroom door swung open and there he is: glorious to behold in his half naked… no, as his hastily wrapped towel dropped to the ground: naked glory. It is Ron, clutching a towel rail he seems to have torn from the wall. His face, at first that of the laughing warrior who charges to battle drops in confusion as he recognises Baz.
“But the bus… I thought you… did they do something with splints and stem cells?”
Baz looked his flatmate in the eye and saw confusion. Sensing water on the floor, his eyes drifted downward to asses the damage. Unfortunately for Baz, Ron’s cock was in the way. And he had a semi. Still twitching with the faint imprint of the tight grip of fingers. Baz made a mental note to buy some bathroom disinfectant as his eyes completed their journey to the floor. A whole lot of water there.
“Ron… I’ll get the mop”
And he did. As he was mopping up the bathwater, Ron explained the cause of the deluge:
“I tell you, they think you’re dead on the radio, I was listing to the Millwall game on Five Live, and they break in to say there was guy knocked over by a bus, bus driver yanked the wheel after the fact and boom, he manages to lay it sideways on the pavement, Loads of people dead, but they described the bright spark who caused the accident and I’d have sworn it was you.”
“Well, not many purple trousered yellow jumpered folks ‘round these parts. Not a fashionable look. Never was. Who would have guessed you had a doppleganger.”
Baz didn’t care. The moment Roy mention he was following a Millwall game a haze of disinterest had decended upon what in years gone by would be referred to as his soul. Roy was was a fan of Millwall for all the wrong reasons. It was not his native team (he was a son of Maidenhead, in Berkshire, making the honourable choice of team Maidenhead FC, a fifth division embarrassment, but one of the nation’s, and thus the world’s oldest and most venerable teams) but instead he obsessed on Millwall, an outfit original from the Isle of Dogs, but presently based in the south of London and now best known for the ferocity of it’s hooligans. Typical Ron behaviour, he apparently felt the violence and notoriety of this team’s fans would in some way contribute to him having sex with more women and, infuriatingly to Baz, he was right.
Later though, after he had managed to pour himself a second scotch and had put the vision of his angry naked flatmate aside; an odd correlation between his olfactory confusion of the day before: his smell of both dead and all to live Roy the day before, and today’s accusations of reckless and fatal jaywalking.
Odd they both believed the other dead. A day apart. Perhaps he had let something slip in his mannerisms the day before, something Roy had picked up on and made his own… perhaps not. As with many of life's mysteries, it seemed to him the answer was once again: coincidence.
So the days went by for the best part of a fortnight, and thought there were other discongruities involving the bathroom, Baz stubbornly ignored them and Roy for his part clearly believed he had better things to do. It was also an awkward location for two outwardly homophobic, but like most English bachelors, inwardly homosexual men to discuss.
All this was to change come the next day, because the bathroom would then serve up a dish which neither Baz nor even Roy could ignore.