Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Scent of Cinnamon

The Scent of Cinnamon by Charles Lambert is a short story that takes place in the early American West. A simple love story unfolds between Joseph Broderick and Miriam Payne beginning with a brief exchange of letters that introduces themselves and their intentions.

It would do, he thought. He looked at the photograph for a moment and saw a man, a liver-spotted dog, a house, then folded the sheet of paper around it and slid them both into the envelope. Miriam Payne, he murmured, writing these words in his small clear forward-sloping hand, and beneath them an address in Cornwall, a country he had never seen. Miriam Payne, he repeated in a stronger voice, then: Miriam Broderick. Yes. It would do.

Several weeks later, Joseph prepares to meet Miriam upon her arrival on the spice boat. On his way, however, the wheel of his wagon becomes stuck in a rut and he struggles to free it. He feels quite poorly afterwards from the physical exertion and suddenly feels a sharp pain in his chest and shoulder. He rests for a while, possibly falling asleep, and awakens feeling stronger than before and now able to continue his journey to the docks. There, Miriam is still waiting for him. It is love at first sight and they head home to begin their new life together as a couple.

"Miriam," he repeated in a voice so quiet he wondered how she could have heard. She kissed his mouth.

"I am God's gift to you," she said. "That's what Miriam means, did you know that? God's gift."

Their life continues quite well for the next month, with the exception of Jasper the dog disappearing the night of Miriam's arrival. Then one morning Joseph decides to go into the harbor town to find the latest local news. During that trip Joseph makes three startling discoveries, one of which includes finding an unbelievable letter posted on the wall near the traders' shops. What he reads will shock him.

And possibly the reader.

I very much enjoyed The Scent of Cinnamon for its vivid description and its winding storyline that makes you think about what may or may not be happening within this story. Although I knew the direction in which the story was heading, the final ending still gave me a slight surprise and made the love story between Joseph and Miriam even sweeter.

"The Scent of Cinnamon" by Charles Lambert from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007 edited by Laura Furman

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