Flash fiction – Vicks VapoRub

Recently, I was on the faculty at the South Coast Writers Conference in Gold Beach, Oregon.  I had a wonderful time teaching and connecting with many talented writers.  I also was lucky enough to get to attend a workshop taught by the poet, Drew Myron.  Each participant received a clear vial of something.  We smelled and then we wrote.  It was a blast.  Here’s the piece of flash fiction that came out of that writing prompt.


I know we’re in love—the real kind—because you kiss me even though I’m sick.  I’m talking funny, nose-plugged, nestled in warren of blankets.  Laptop balanced between us, we’re cruising YouTube for TED talks and snowboarding clips and the Beanie Baby parody of The Hunger Games.

Every few minutes you lean through a mentholated halo of Vicks VapoRub and nuzzle my neck.  The smear of it under my nose drives you back into the pillows with watering eyes.  Laughing and wiping tears on your sleeve, you tell me a story.

There was this guy in my dorm in college.  Edgar.  We played ultimate frisbee on the quad every Thursday.  And he had the world’s worst smelling feet.  Anyway, in sophomore year, he started dating this girl.  I don’t remember her name just that she was in our ecology class and had dimples and she didn’t last long with Edgar.  Here’s why.  

It was late.  The rest of us were partying in the room next door.  But Edgar and Dimple Girl were having sex.  And she was kinda loud, so those of us near the wall between the rooms got full-audio.  They’d been going at it for a while when the moans turned to screams.  

Screams?  You pause, grin wicked, and stare at me until I can’t help blushing.

You wanna know what happened?

I nod and dodge as you dive-bomb my neck.  Mission accomplished, you flop back against the headboard.

That douche, Edgar—I found out later—reached for the lube and got the Vicks by mistake.

Oh my god!  I snort into the comforter.  Tiny bits of down tickle my cheeks.  Vicks!  Not Vicks!  I nuzzle your shoulder with the bite of it in my nose.  It ropes us in, sharp as barbed wire, but we are all tangled limbs, new love, and the scent—thank god only the scent—of Vicks.