Paula Fox

“It was a dead hole, smelling of synthetic leather and disinfectant, both of which odors seemed to emanate from the torn scratched material of the seats that lined the three walls. It smelled of the tobacco ashes which had flooded the two standing metal ashtrays. On the chromium lip of one, a cigar butt gleamed wetly like a chewed piece of beef. There was the smell of peanut shells and of the waxy candy wrappers that littered the floor, the smell of old newspapers, dry, inky, smothering and faintly like a urinal, the smell of sweat from armpits and groins and backs and faces, pouring out and drying up in the lifeless air, the smell of clothes—cleaning fluids imbedded in fabric and blooming horribly in the warm sweetish air, picking at the nostrils like thorns—all the exudations of the human flesh, a bouquet of animal being, flowing out, drying up, but leaving a peculiar and ineradicable odor of despair in the room as though chemistry was transformed into spirit, an ascension of a kind,
…Light issuing from spotlights in the ceiling was sour and blinding like a sick breath.
There was in that room an underlying confusion in the function of the senses. Smell became color, color became smell. Mute started at mute so intently they might have been listening with their eyes, and hearing grew preternaturally acute, yet waited only for the familiar syllables of surnames. Taste died, mouth opened in the negative drowsiness of waiting.”


Paula Fox, Desperate Characters
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Desperate Characters Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
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