One of the Writing-related groups I am in offered this writing prompt:
It was the first time the 17 year old Martin met a newborn baby.
This is what that prompt prompted me to write:
Baby. That’s what they called this smooth-skinned, wriggly thing. They’d presented it to Martin with obvious pride, which was unexpected, because the last time a wriggly hairless thing had entered the house – that one had been carried in by Martin, who’d found it in the garden- they’d screamed and they’d called it Snake and they’d grabbed the broom and swept it back into the garden.
To Martin, this new Baby appeared a lot more threatening than the Snake, because unlike the Snake, the Baby made odd noises, smelled like sour milk and boasted a disconcerting number of flailing limbs. And yet, no one implemented the broom, and no one screamed. In fact, they cooed at this Baby in the high voices that were usually reserved for Martin. They also cooed at Martin and pointed the baby out to him. As if he’d miss it. Admitted, his eyes were not what they’d once been, but he still had a good sense of smell, and his hearing wasn’t that bad either. Right now, he heard: “Come on, Martin. Nothing to be scared off. She can’t hurt you. You’ll like her.”
Her? It was a her? And they wanted him to like this her? He sniffed the air. Still sour milk. And something else, too, something that reminded him of… of… No. It was gone. His memory certainly wasn’t what it had once been. But fine. If they were so convinced that this Baby was not dangerous, and if they so wanted him to inspect it up close, he’d do it. Probably a bad idea, he thought, curiosity killed the cat and all that, but he stood up anyway and moved on his stiff legs towards the Baby.
The Baby was in a basket on the floor, so that was familiar enough, and Martin peered over the edge of the basket at the writhing Baby, and he sniffed. Still sour milk, but so much more. How come he’d not smelled that earlier? Was his nose also in decline? There was the other smell, the one he couldn’t remember, and there was the smell of soft cream, and of body, and, most importantly, the familiar smell of them, of the loved ones who had brought this Baby home and who had encouraged Martin to approach it, and that smell was the sweetest of all, even if it came from this undersized, wriggling, not-a-snake Baby.
Martin pushed his rickety body up on the basket. One of them said “No, Martin!” but the other said: “Leave him. We are here, we can keep an eye on things,” and Martin was left to clamber over the edge of the basket, which hurt his creaking joints, and then to lower himself on a soft surface next to the Baby. The Baby made a little noise, but this time it didn’t frighten Martin, because the sound was cushioned by the sweet smell. Martin sniffed along the baby and found it had a nose, a tiny one, that could be licked, like Martin would often do with larger noses, and he understood that this Baby was indeed not a threat.
He lay down, sculpting his bony body to curl perfectly against the soft warmth of the Baby, and he inhaled deeply, that smell that he now did remember: the smell of his youth, his mother, his siblings. The smell of family, and of love. Martin closed his glaucomic eyes and started to purr.