Cranks My Tractor

Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 at 08:48 AM.

My eyes watered, my nose ran, and for a very long time, everyone who came in uttered the same phrase as soon as they came in Grandmama’s ten cent store with the wooden screen door and oscillating fans blowing left and right around the cash register where Grandmama would sit and wait to do business with the folks that would wander in.

They would say, “Somebody opened a bottle of Atom Bomb.”

Atom Bomb was cheap perfume; as a matter of fact, it was the “cheapest” perfume Grandmama sold. What on earth would cause someone to want to put something like that on their body puzzled me. Just thinking about the smell makes my eyes pour water – my right eye in particular. I still don’t know how to best describe the aroma or stench. Perhaps being drowned in vanilla flavoring, while someone poured gasoline on your sunburn, while another fellow squirted vinegar based hot pepper sauce in your eyes (particularly your right one).

Mama explained to me that the type of folks who used Atom Bomb perfume usually did so to cover up the fact that they didn’t take a bath. Mama taught school in Alabama for 42 years, she was good at explaining things like this. She also probably knew that if she had explained it to me before I opened one of the little bottles with the red lids, I would have opened it anyway.

Flannery O’Connor could have gotten away with a much more straightforward explanation of the reason and type of folks that might need to use Atom Bomb perfume. Someone would have probably died in the process, but there would have been humor involved and the underlying message could have been taken (or appreciated) in a variety of scents.

The smell in my classroom was not going away; it was just being oscillated back and forth so as to continue to hit me on the left, right, top and bottom of my right eye. I couldn’t continue reading Flannery’s “Revelation” because I was using various combinations of my hands and fingers to hold my right eye in my head and going back and forth to the hallway for air.

On death’s door and reading this particular story, I started thinking about the Book of Revelation in the Bible. I remember somewhere the angels burning perfume or incense and it smoking and people praying. There was thunder, rumblings, lightning flashing and earthquakes.

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